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From Africa's crown jewel to League Two: Wilfried Bony's extraordinary rise and fall

12:00 BST 19/08/2019
Wilfried Bony Manchester City
The former Manchester City striker, who is still only 30, is now a free agent having once been Africa's most expensive player

In January 2015, Wilfried Bony joined Manchester City from Swansea City after scoring the most goals of any Premier League player in the previous calendar year.

The Ivory Coast striker was flying high and would soon also win the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea, where he was named in the team of the tournament.

Joining City for an initial fee of €27 million (£25m/$30m), Bony became the joint-most expensive African footballer of all time. At 26, it seemed that he had the world at his feet.

But fast forward four years and Bony is now desperately searching for a new club, having been most recently training with League Two side Newport County. 

While he won't be signing for the fourth-tier team, the fact that he was even there highlights just how far he's fallen. 

Bony's career very nearly started in England, with the forward having had a trial with Liverpool in 2007. 

"I was there for two weeks in 2007 when Rafa Benitez was the manager," Bony revealed five years ago.

“They wanted to see what sort of a player I was and it was amazing as a young guy to get the chance to use facilities like that and to see a stadium like that."

No contract offer was forthcoming, though, and Bony instead took his first steps on his path to becoming a professional footballer in the Czech Republic with Sparta Prague, where he impressed sufficiently to earn a move to Eredivisie outfit Vitesse in 2010.

After three seasons in Netherlands, Swansea would come calling after Bony struck a stunning 37 goals across the 2012-13 season. 

Swansea paid a then club-record fee of £12m ($15m) to sign Bony and were immediately rewarded when he scored two goals on his debut in a Europa League qualifier. 

The Ivorian would also score on his Premier League debut, against Manchester United, and end the season with 25 goals in all competitions. 

Bony's 20 Premier League goals in 2014 were the most of any player in the English top flight and his fine form resulted in a move to Manchester City. 

“He is very difficult to mark because he is so strong,” then City boss Manuel Pellegrini said after Bony's arrival at the Etihad. “He is an intelligent footballer who has skill and power.

“His goals record has been excellent since he came to England. He adapted very quickly to the game here and I think he will settle in at City quickly."

However, Bony failed to hit the ground running, netting just twice in his first 12 appearances, and his hopes of forcing his way into the starting line-up were severely hindered by contracting malaria during a trip to Africa. 

Without a strong pre-season behind him, the forward was always playing catch-up in 2015-16 and he scored just eight goals from 34 appearances.

Consequently, the arrival of Pep Guardiola as City's new manager effectively spelt the end of Bony's time in Manchester.

A loan move to Stoke would follow but he failed to convince and soon found himself frozen out of the squad by Mark Hughes, not long after turning down a move to China.

"When you hear everything is fine and you don't play, it's crazy," Bony told BBC's World Football

"It is more than difficult. This is something that I want to know why – the coach told me I'm training very well and my attitude is very good. It doesn't make sense. It's painful."

Swansea would then arrange a reunion with their former star in August 2017, paying less than half of what they had sold him for two years prior. 

While quickly scoring two league goals and even captaining the side, injury and poor form combined to see him struggle as Swansea were relegated at the end of the season.

After a handful of appearances in the Championship, Bony moved to Qatari side Al-Arabi on loan in January 2019 and while he managed only seven appearances, he did, at least, score five goals. 

Still, after returning to Wales in May, he was released by Swansea and, after not being allowed to continue training with the club, turned to League Two side Newport as a way to keep fit. 

"I said why not – let me go there. It's one hour from Swansea so I started training with them," Bony told BBC Sport Wales .  

"I am enjoying it. It's a young team with young lads. I talk to them about my experience. I wanted to get fitter and it's good to be around the players.

"I know it's not the same level but it doesn't matter. You just need to be around the team, moving with the team and getting a bit of fitness."

While Rodney Parade is a long way from the lofty heights of the Etihad, Bony is determined to pick himself back up with a move to Italy or Turkey now on the cards .  

Still just 30, it's not too late for Bony to rise again.