It feels like we’ve been waiting an age, but the time has finally arrived. After months of the transfer window, nine signings through the door and weeks of the season already done, Plymouth Argyle have finally signed a striker.

I’ll concede; in reality, it’s only been a month or so since Steven Schumacher announced his intention to complete his Argyle squad with a centre forward. But doesn’t this one feel particularly welcome?

Mustapha Bundu is the man chosen to bolster Argyle’s ranks. He joins on a permanent deal from Belgian side Anderlecht, having spent last season on loan at FC Andorra. Aged 26, he’s on the older side when looking at Argyle’s other recruits this summer. But that merely goes to show how young most of those signings have been. Really, Bundu is another young player who will be hungry to impress for the Greens this season, especially during his first foray into the English professional leagues.

It’d be fair to describe the reaction to Bundu’s unveiling as mixed. Some are excited by what he’ll bring to the side, some are relieved just to get another forward through the door, and some are disappointed that he isn’t quite the ‘big name’ they’d heard Argyle promise this summer. I think membership of all of those camps has merit – whether you want to call that diplomacy or fence-sitting is your prerogative. But now he’s arrived, let’s take a look at Bundu, his strengths and weaknesses, and how he’ll fit in for Argyle’s Championship campaign.

Jack of all trades

In the intro I’ve mentioned that Argyle have finally brought in a striker. And yes, it’s true that Bundu has played as a centre forward competently across his career. But it’d be unfair to claim that’s all he can do, or indeed that it’s his speciality. Bundu brings versatility across the front line, and ticks a lot of the boxes Argyle were looking to cover in the dying embers of the transfer window.

Bundu has made 117 professional starts across his career, which doesn’t include the time he spent in the English non-league system. He’s made 24 starts as a centre forward, but interestingly that isn’t nearly as many as he’s made from the right wing. When we factor in that his starts from the left wing also reach double figures, we see a picture emerging of a player who covers a number of bases.

Mustapha Bundu Career Starts
Right wing 80
Striker 24
Left wing 13


That’s crucial. After missing out on Josh Coburn, Argyle needed someone who would offer a different option to Ryan Hardie and Ben Waine. They’ve got one. But they’ve also secured someone who can fill for Morgan Whittaker on the right if required. Or if injury or suspension hits Bali Mumba, Bundu can ensure Argyle aren’t reliant on Mickel Miller’s questionable fitness record on the left. Switching to last season’s 3-4-2-1? No problem – Bundu should have the talent to either play up front or as one of the two behind.

Bundu has strengths in his own right, and we’ll get to those in a moment. But Argyle had one primary responsibility on deadline day: add depth up front. Not only have they done that, they’ve also bolstered their options in the two wide positions. That has to be commended. Bundu may reasonably be considered a jack of all trades, and whether he has the ability to master a particular position remains to be seen. Reassuringly, he’s starting from a solid base.

Key skills in possession

Assessing Bundu’s stats hasn’t been as straightforward as I’d have liked. I’ve gone back to his last season at FC Andorra (who, to avoid any confusion, aren’t as bad as they sound – they play in the Spanish second tier). Appearances were frequent, but they totalled up to just 995 minutes across the campaign. To put that into perspective, that’s just four minutes more than Callum Wright played for Argyle last season, and he missed the first half of the campaign by virtue of still playing for Blackpool.

So, the sample size we’re working with is smaller than I’d find preferable. That doesn’t mean we should discount the stats entirely, but how much weight we want to give them is up for debate. For my money, Bundu’s numbers (or at least the ones I’ve bothered to track down – they don’t pay me the big bucks for nothing) give us some helpful indications, even if they perhaps do not allow us to draw any firmer conclusions.

And in the spirit of those indications, let’s look at his passing. As with many Argyle signings this summer, Bundu’s abilities with the ball at his feet seem promising. His pass success rate last season was 81%, a better figure than any of Argyle’s forward players posted. The next highest amongst out-and-out strikers was Niall Ennis, way back on 64%, whilst Danny Mayor was the closest amongst attackers in general with 78%.

That can often lead to accusations of a player just passing for the sake of passing. Not the case with Bundu, as his consistent key passing was also impressive last season. Per 90 minutes, only three Argyle players completed more key passes, suggesting that Bundu combines his tidy passing with an eye for a killer ball when feasible.

Player Key Passes per 90
Finn Azaz 2.42
Mickel Miller 1.95
Callum Wright 1.91
Mustapha Bundu* 1.90
Conor Grant 1.88
Adam Randell 1.76


There is an important caveat. Last season FC Andorra, under the tutelage of ex-Barcelona coach Eder Sarabia, played a possession-heavy game. Centre back and Football Manager wonderkid Mika Marmol regularly went through games with more than 150 touches, which is something I don’t recall seeing at all in League One. You’d expect a player to have a greater pass success rate, and more opportunities to play key passes, as a part of Sarabia’s system. That’s worth keeping in mind, even if Bundu’s numbers are encouraging in their own right.

Regardless, we’ve learnt that when he gains possession, Bundu instinctively likes to positively offload the ball. But that’s not to say he can’t run with it either. Last season only Danny Mayor and Bali Mumba completed more dribbles than Bundu, and that’s remarkable when you consider the latter’s limited playing time. Neither Mayor nor Mumba completed more dribbles per 90 minutes last season than Bundu, so expect to see him putting defenders under pressure with direct running to complement his slick passing.

Whether his signing is an ultimate success or not is another matter, but Bundu strikes me as someone who will be entertaining to watch. His passing will impress, and his dribbling will get many of us on the edge of our seats.

Aerial encouragement

The final strength I’d like to draw your attention to is Bundu’s aerial ability. Standing at 6ft 2, he’s already at a decent advantage in many of his aerial duels. That was reflected last season; Bundu’s aerial duel success rate was a highly impressive 69%. It’s a figured bettered by only a few Argyle players last season, mainly in defence, and comfortably beats all of the Greens’ attacking contingent.

Player Aerial Duel Success Rate
Mustapha Bundu* 69%
Sam Cosgrove 48%
Finn Azaz 44%
Callum Wright 44%
Ryan Hardie 33%
Danny Mayor 30%
Niall Ennis 21%
Morgan Whittaker 20%
Ben Waine 19%


Those numbers look seriously striking on face value. But I will bring in a couple of caveats. The number of duels Bundu actually won is very small; his 69% success rate accounts for just 16 aerial duels fought, of which he won 11. Of the players listed above, only Whittaker and Waine won fewer. To truly be a threat in the air, Bundu needs not only to win a high proportion of his aerial duels, but also win them with regularity.

We also must remember that Bundu spent much of last season playing as a winger, and it’s far easier to win aerial duels against full backs than against burly centre halves. The 6 ft 2 height advantage I mentioned earlier? It’s actually the exact same height as Hardie, who had a much more difficult time winning aerial duels. Technique of course plays a role, but so does the calibre of the opponent in a duel, and Bundu has almost certainly had easier aerial adversaries in the last year.

Nonetheless, Bundu’s aerial numbers, and indeed his numbers as a whole, are a qualified positive. You’d much rather move to a new club looking to build on good numbers, rather than having to improve on poor numbers. Bundu’s aerial duel success figure last season was objectively excellent. If Argyle were looking for a Sam Cosgrove replacement, who could act as a target man when required, Bundu would undoubtedly give it a good go.

Impact from the bench

The main drawback to Bundu, certainly from an initial browse of his stats, is his goalscoring. A lot has been made of the fact he only scored three times in the Spanish second tier last season, and I agree that’s a poor record. It becomes even worse when you consider that two of those goals came in a single game, meaning he scored just once across his other 27 league appearances.

But let’s live a little. In the interests of fun, let’s have a look at the brace he scored. Because it came in one of the most remarkable cameo appearances I think I’ve ever witnessed.

Picture the scene: it’s a Sunday afternoon in November with the Pyrenees, as we often see, caked in sunshine. The World Cup is about to kick off in Qatar in a couple of hours, but more important matters are afoot in this part of the world. The Spanish second tier continues as La Liga takes a break, and FC Andorra are looking to strengthen their historic promotion push against relegation-threatened Lugo. But, with three quarters of the game already played, the teams are still deadlocked at 0-0.

In the 67th minute, Sarabia rolls the dice with a triple change. One of the players introduced is Sierra Leone international Mustapha Bundu, yet to score during his loan spell with the club. Could that change? Absolutely.

Within a minute, Bundu scores, finishing calmly after finding space on the break. Moments later he bags a second, slamming home after a smart one-two with Hector Hevel. And three minutes after that he turns provider, setting up Sinan Bakis after picking the ball up on the right. Within nine minutes of coming on, Bundu has taken the game by the scruff of the neck, notched three goal contributions, and turned a match meandering towards a goalless draw firmly in his side’s favour.

La Liga are being a bunch of…nuisances with the video below. But I’m reliably informed if you click through to YouTube you’ll be able to see the highlights in all their glory.


Ok, time to come back down to Earth. Keep in mind that Bundu only managed to play like that once, and it was at home against the side who would eventually finish bottom of the league. Still, I defy anybody to watch his impact in the video above and not get excited about what he can do. Remember, that isn’t a personal highlights reel, but a clear example of the impact Bundu had on a single encounter. The Lugo defence just couldn’t cope.

I accept that you shouldn’t read too much into one match when judging a player, particularly when the other 27 didn’t go nearly as well. But there is a semi-serious point here. In winning the title last season, one of Argyle’s major strengths was the sheer volume of goals scored by substitutes. In the Championship that hasn’t been quite so apparent, with Luke Cundle’s lob against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday the first, and thus far only, goal scored from the substitutes’ bench this season.

Bundu could change that. We saw against Lugo how effective he can be emerging from the bench, and the hope has to be that the success is replicable. Given his versatility, we could see Argyle use Bundu as a super sub in various position; it’s unquestionably thrilling to think of him being deployed against tiring opposition legs.

Culmination of a journey

Cards on the table, I’m not fully convinced by Bundu. For the moment at least. I think there are enough caveats to cast doubt on a number of his best stats, and his goalscoring record across the last few years is far from terrific. But I’m certainly not going to write him off – success at Argyle would be far from the strangest thing to happen in his career to date.

He’s been on a journey I can safely say no player has been on before, and probably never will again. Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Bundu started his footballing career at the local Craig Bellamy Academy. He then received a student visa and continued playing at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire. It was there that he met Callam McOnie, with whom he stayed during the holidays. It was as a favour to McOnie that he made his now famous single appearance for Newquay, scoring twice against Ivybridge in 2015.

He then moved to Hereford, scoring a hatful of goals in a promotion season for the phoenix club. He’d have happily stayed too, but work permit requirements after promotion were tighter, and Bundu fell victim. It was up to him to continue his career elsewhere, and he did just that following a successful trial at AGF in Denmark – or Aarhus Gymnastikforening if you prefer. He was characteristically excellent, and his performances secured a move to Champions League regulars Anderlecht for a fee in the region of £3 million.

Alas, he wouldn’t play in Europe with the Belgian side. In truth, his spell there wasn’t his best, and he ended up playing most of his football away on loan. First in Denmark again, with Copenhagen and a later spell back at AGF, and more recently as we’ve discussed in Andorra.

Let’s summarise. We have a player who started his career in the nation of his birth on the west coast of Africa, playing in an academy named after a former Wales international. I already feel confident enough to say he’s the first ex-Craig Bellamy Academy player to sign for Plymouth Argyle. But it seems to get weirder after that. After moving to the UK he played a single game for Newquay as a favour to a mate, where he was described as “head and shoulders above anyone on the pitch” and “streets ahead” of anyone to ever play in the South West Peninsula League.

Those performances earned him a move to Hereford, where he impressed. And he would have stayed but for work permit rules, which only inspired him to embark on a European adventure. He’s played in Denmark, Belgium, and spent last season representing a microstate in the Spanish second tier. Oh, and he’s also appeared for Sierra Leone at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Yes, this signing came out of the blue. But when you take all that into account, it’s possible that signing for Argyle is the most normal thing to happen in Bundu’s career to date.

Is it really out of the question that Bundu will be a success at Home Park? Although I have my reservations, it’d seem foolish to bet against it; stranger things have certainly happened, as Bundu himself can testify. Regardless though, given the journey he’s been on to get here, cult hero status already feels guaranteed.