Cédric Bakambu, who enjoyed a goal-scoring debut for Olympique de Marseille last weekend, has decided to relaunch his career back where it all began in Ligue 1 after almost a decade away starring in Turkey, Spain and China.
Now aged 30, Bakambu joined Marseille on a deal to 2024 earlier this month to return to Ligue 1 seven and a half years after he left FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. Bakambu’s first appearance for his new club could not have gone better, as he came on in the 75th minute away at RC Lens and found the net two minutes later to seal a 2-0 win, all this while Arkadiusz Milik remained on the bench watching on.
Contrast that with the Democratic Republic of Congo international’s last appearance in the French top flight, in May 2014. Then he came off the bench at half-time for Sochaux in a relegation decider against Evian-Thonon-Gaillard only to be substituted 25 minutes later by coach Hervé Renard. Sochaux lost 3-0 and went down. Bakambu, then aged 23, was then sold to the Turkish club Bursaspor.
After scoring 13 goals in his first season in Turkey, Bakambu was left for Villarreal, for whom he scored 31 La Liga goals in three campaigns. That was followed by a €40 million move to the Chinese Super League with Beijing Guoan, where he scored a total of 58 goals, won the Cup and played under current Stade Rennais FC coach Bruno Genesio. It has been an enriching experience for the striker who was born and raised in the Paris suburbs.
“Since I went away I have gained experience, I am 30 now and I am a father. I have travelled and played in great atmospheres in Turkey and in Spain. I am better equipped now,” he said after penning his contract with OM having been a free agent since the end of December.
Marseille have been trying to find a prolific centre-forward for years now, with Milik apparently the answer when he arrived midway through last season only for the Polish striker to suffer a knee injury and struggle to get back to his best in this campaign. With Bamba Dieng away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, maybe Bakambu can be the man to fire Jorge Sampaoli’s side into the UEFA Champions League, a competition he has never tasted.
Barcelona move that never was
He has played in the Asian Champions League and he might have got the chance to play in Europe’s elite club competition had a mooted move to Barcelona transpired in January 2020.
“When I arrived in Hong Kong for a stopover on the way to Spain, two or three days before the transfer window closed, my agent called me and said the deal was off,” he told beIN Sports recently. “I had already imagined myself there and it knocked me for six.”
He went back to China and continued to score goals in Beijing, but he had not played since November before making his Marseille debut. The question now is whether Bakambu can show with Marseille the kind of form that had Barcelona interested in him in the first place. It could be a big year for a player who represented France at youth international level before opting to represent the Leopards of DR Congo. They have a two-legged tie against Morocco coming up in March for a place at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
Meanwhile OM are hoping he can be the man to boost what is the worst attack in the top seven in Ligue 1, while they also target success in the Coupe de France and the Europa Conference League.
“I still have a long way to go but I am very pleased and proud to have signed here,” he said last weekend.