FFor all his on-pitch fireworks, Nestory Irankunda was understated as he stood in front of a packed media room in Adelaide for the first time as a future Bayern Munich player on Wednesday. When asked if he was up to the challenge of playing for the Bundesliga giants, the 17-year-old calmly replied: “I think so.”
The teenage sensation’s remarkable journey from a refugee camp in Tanzania to one of the world’s biggest clubs has captured the imagination of Australian football – and beyond. The move, which he will make in July next year, is the culmination of 12 months of negotiations, while the deal brings millions of dollars to his local club and is a model of economic opportunity for the A-Leagues.
The Adelaide United star’s shyness in front of the cameras of every broadcaster in the city was in stark contrast to his on-field performances, which have sparked interest around the world. He scored nine goals for his club, the most goals ever scored by a teenager in the league. Each goal was marked by characteristic acrobatics.
Irankunda has signed a four-year contract with FC Bayern but will not join the club until July, the first transfer window after his 18th birthday in February. Adelaide chief executive Nathan Kosmina said his club had fielded offers from clubs in all of Europe’s top five leagues.
“Not many players his age have the hype and success that he had,” Kosmina said.
The initial transfer fee is below the much-discussed $5.5 million and is actually below the A-League transfer record Celtic paid for Marco Tilio earlier this year – reportedly just under $3 million. However, it includes incentives for Iraqunda’s performance at Bayern and a sell-on clause that means a subsequent transfer is likely to exceed the initial return.
Kosmina said Bayern’s choice was partly due to their commitment to supporting Irankunda’s career as well as life off the pitch.
“The A-Leagues have a bit of a checkered history with players returning relatively quickly (from moves to Europe) and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we want to make sure we do everything we can to prepare players for that. “Success,” he said.
Irankunda’s family comes from Burundi but fled to Tanzania because of the civil war. Nestory, one of eight siblings, was born in a refugee camp there before his parents Gideon and Dafroza moved the family to Adelaide in 2013.
Irankunda’s agent Adrian Griffin said he was pleased to be able to complete the deal for the player and his family. “It’s been a long process to get to this point, but Adelaide United and Bayern Munich have done great and we’ve achieved a result that’s good for everyone,” he said.
After a change of ownership two years ago, the A-League men’s competition is working to improve its position in Australia’s competitive sports market. The deal for Irankunda represents new commissioner Nick Garcia’s vision for the A-League Men to be a development league for Europe. In the first four rounds of the 2023–24 season, players under the age of 21 played more minutes than in any previous season.
But no player has attracted more attention than Irankunda, whose frenetic movements, ferocity in attack and sometimes fiery approach have made him the league’s star attraction since his debut at the age of 15. Kosmina said the timing of the move was good for both the league and the player.
“We are in a position to see a future Bayern Munich player playing at Coopers Stadium in the next seven months,” he said. “This is obviously important for our fans to have fun, but it is also important for Nestory in terms of his development. He still has a long way to go to prepare for the cultural and footballing changes that come with moving to Europe.”
The announcement ends a process that began a year ago when Irankunda and its representatives drew up a wish list of clubs. One of those original clubs was Bayern Munich, the club supported by Irankunda’s father. At the same time, the German club identified the Australian as a transfer target and contact was made in April.
Although several other clubs submitted offers and presented Irankunda, negotiations with Bayern – for both player and club – have progressed steadily in recent months. Last week the transfer fee, incentives and resale clause were agreed and Irankunda’s personal terms were set.
While the transfer fee is not an A-League record, it represents a significant return considering Irankunda could have signed a deal in January that would have paid Adelaide United less than $500,000, a figure based on the FIFA’s standardized training remuneration scheme.