Last week Victor Wanyama announced his retirement from international football, so at mountroyalsoccer.com we thought it a good time to take a retro-look at a career spanning almost 400 appearances at club level alone.
The announcement came as a surprise to many in east Africa despite returning Kenya coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee omitting Wanyama from his squad for September’s opening two World Cup qualifiers.
Interestingly Mulee’s fifth stint as Kenya boss (one lasted only a single day in December 2005) ended with the sack shortly after and optimism rose in the country that newly appointed Engin Firat would recall the former Celtic, Southampton and Spurs midfielder for this month’s World Cup qualifiers.
Wanyama’s recent announcement however put paid to that theory and extinguishes a long-held aspiration of playing for his country at a World Cup finals.
An international career ranging between 52 and 71 caps (depending on which source you read) began as a 15 year-old against Nigeria in May 2007 and includes, as its highlight, captaining the Harambee Stars at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt. It was Kenya’s first finals qualification in 15 years.
But what of a club career which forms the bulk of an impressive CV... ?
After spending time in his homeland with Nairobi City Stars and AFC Leopards, Wanyama travelled to Sweden in 2007, joining his brother McDonald Mariga at Allsvenskan club Helsingborg. But when his older sibling left for Serie A and Parma a year later, Victor returned to Kenya.
Belgium’s Germinal Beerschot were quickly alerted and Wanyama signed on for four years with the Antwerp club.
Scottish Premier League giant Celtic were not long in tailing the young Kenyan, but had to display persistence, his Belgian employers knocking back initial approaches.
Eventually Celtic got their man in 2011 at the end of his third season in Belgium.
For a team lacking defensive steel it wasn’t long before hard-to-please Celtic fans begun to laud their relatively unknown new signing.
The first Kenyan to play in the SPL (and subsequently the English Premier League too), Wanyama was voted SPL Young Player of the Year for season 2012/13, but really came to the fore with a pair of commanding midfield performances in Champions League against a Barcelona side then still at the height of their powers.
Celtic actually triumphed 2-1 in the home game and Wanyama set them on their way with a bullet-header.
Unsurprisingly given the shop-window, transfer speculation was mounting and Celtic boss Neil Lennon slapped on a £25m tag.
2012/13 was becoming Wanyama’s season. He even won a place in the Guardian newspaper’s top 100 players in the world (at no. 81), and was so highly regarded World Soccer magazine put him on their front cover in Feb 2013 as one of the Champions League’s top emerging talents.
And, for the 2012/13 Champions League final, the official match program listed him as one of the top six young talents in the competition.
Wanyama never played a century of games (all competitions) for any of his clubs, but for Celtic, Southampton and Tottenham he turned out 91, 97 and 97 times respectively. At Celtic in SPL he was most prolific scoring 13 times, and won two titles, 2012 and 2013, when the Scottish Cup was also won.
Despite enjoying the lure of regular Champions League football Wanyama decided to trade the glamour of Celtic for the relative riches of England’s Premier League, joining Southampton, a club with little chance of continental competition.
But the Kenyan would once again step onto the international club stage after joining Tottenham, making six appearances in the north Londoners’ successful run to the Champions League final in 2019.
In Madrid Spurs ultimately succumbed 0-2 to Liverpool, and Wanyama despite playing in all four (and starting in three) quarter-final and semi-final matches v Manchester City and Ajax respectively did not see any game time, being named amongst the substitutes.
Following Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham departure in 2019 and the appointment of Jose Mourinho, Wanyama’s game time at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium became limited and seeking pastures new he became one of the first Thierry Henry signings for the then Montreal Impact.
Now with another year left on his contract CF Montreal fans can expect to see Victor Wanyama pass the 400-game milestone in club football (since leaving Kenya) in the colours of their team.
If a play-off run ensues, things go as planned in the Canadian Championship and he remains injury-free, it could even happen before 2021 is out.
Club appearances and goals record -
Beerschot 56 - 2
Celtic 91 - 13
Southampton 97 - 4
Spurs 97 - 7
Montreal 49 - 4
Total 390 - 30
International Record -
Kenya - between 52 and 71 caps and 7 goals scored.
Note: In some countries information on players’ international caps is at best inconsistent. Some sources count all appearances, including in the case of some African confederation countries, African Nations Championship (not to be confused with African Cup of Nations, which are unquestionably full internationals) games which are not full internationals. African Nations Championship games are only for those players playing domestically for the country they represent.
Also, often consistent records do not exist. For instance in Wanyama’s case it is likely not possible that the figure of 52 caps is accurate as sources quoting this number tend to detail an international record that begins in 2009. As the article above says however, it’s believed Wanyama made his full international debut for Kenya in May 2007 (aged only 15) in a friendly against Nigeria.