NORTH EAST UNITED have signed an experienced, composed finisher with a proven record of quick acllimatizing in a plethora of conditions and leagues in Boubacar Sanogo. Building a team with a young core, the NEUFC attack has so far been heavy on the pace and energy of Nicolás Vélez, Holicharan Nazary, Francis Dadzie and Seityasen. The only experienced striker to go with their seasoned midfield dominated by Portuguese duo Simão Sabrosa and Silas was Diomancy Kamara. Now with the addition of Sanogo, they can be more or less sure of having a leading figure in the forward line throghout the season barring some extra bad luck.
The 32 year old from Ivory Coast has been something of a world traveller in his footballing career. After starting his career at Siroco de San-Pédro, a Regional Division club in Ivory Coast, Sanogo went to Tuinisian top-tier club Espérance, where he quickly gained attention for his physically imposing presence on the opponent half, efficiency in aerial battles and calm finishing. His 3 seasons at San-Pédro established himself as a heavy-duty forward with a high success rate; he scored 27 goals for them in 39 league appearances. His good form continued when he moved to Al-Ain of UAE Pro League. He earned 54 league caps for them during 2002-2005, and slotted in 43 goals.
His performance in UAE attracted the interest of German club FC Kaiserslautern, and thus it was that in 2005-06 he had his Bundesliga debut. The club did not do well that season, ending up being relegated to Bundesliga 2 when all was said and done. But Sanogo made himself known quickly in the league, scoring 10 goals in 24 matches. When Kaiserslautern went down, Sanogo was bought by Hamburger SV. And here he had a poor season, scoring only 4 goals after 31 appearances. He became hugely unpopular with the fans, and got booed several times. He was sold to SV Werder Bremen at the end of the season. After a moderate season and a half there (11 goals from 31 appearances) he was loaned out to fellow Bundesliga club Hoffenheim, where he couldn't really fire; getting only 1 goal out of his 14 league appearances.
In the summer of 2009 Sanogo set sail for France, joining Ligue 1 side AS Saint-Étienne. Here, a series of injuries marred his 3 year spell. After a prolonged recovery process, he struggled to break into the first team. Eventually he managed to earn 30 league caps, scoring only once.
Sanogo slipped from top tier football after this. His next club plied their trade in 3. Liga, the third division league in Germany. But he was playing regularly for them, and scoring again. He left them in 2014, having played in 61 league games, with 25 goals to his name.
He returned to UAE following this, playing for a while at Al-Fujairah SC. He was used sparingly here, playing in only 6 league games and scoring twice before being signed up by NEUFC.
So there is no dearth of experience as far as Boubacar Sanogo is concerned. He has played professionally in three continents, been through good times and bad, and been part of two of the big top-flight leagues in Europe. And he has also played for the Ivory Coast in between all this, adding 21 national team caps, and 8 international goals to his resume. All this is a treasure trove for NorthEast United and their young players, who can learn much from him.
But he comes with the same issue that plagues many of the "experienced" foreign recruits in the ISL; he has been out of regular first team football for a while now. But the NEUFC coaching staff have dealt with multiple such cases by now so this is nothing new for them.
A lot of hopes are riding on the John Abraham-owned franchise this season. During the inaugural ISL, they built up one of the most diverse and loyal fan followings in the tournament, but their on field performance fel short of expectations as they did not even make it to the semi-finals. Signing Sanogo is one of the final pieces of the puzzle, in NEUFC's quest to make this the season that turns things around for them.