After making his move from Rennes to Wolves we asked our resident Rennes fan Bastien Leclair to run the rule over the winger and give Wolves fans an insight into their new signing.
Two short spells of brilliance amidst month of frustration, this is the picture Rennes supporters could draw after the departure of Razak Boukari from Stade Rennais. Labelled as a talented but inconsistent player when he joined from Racing Club de Lens in January 2011, Razak Boukari didn’t do anything to answer his critics in Rennes. Despite clear potential when he raised his levels of motivation to the level of interesting technical and physical abilities, the Togo international leaves Rennes on an all-time low after 18 months in the Breton capital. Now a Wolverhampton player after signing a four-year contract at Molineux, he will have it all to do to prove he can be a success in the English leagues.
Born in Lomé (Togo), Razak Boukari grew up in Chateauroux where is father Sadou – also a full Togo international – played for ten seasons between 1985 and 1994. Trained at the Berry’s club Academy, he went through all age categories and the Reserve team before making his professional debut during the 2004-2005 season, aged 17. After satisfying debuts for his first season (6 goals in 15 games), Boukari soon goes on to become an important member of the Chateauroux set-up, playing nearly every league game for his second season in Chateauroux and catching the eye of a few Ligue 1 clubs interested in the young winger’s ability. Transferred in Lens in June 2006, he starts his time in the north of France by gathering some interesting playing time in Ligue 1 before being slowly left at the back of the rotation.
Lens’ relegation to Ligue 2 in 2008 and the subsequent exodus of players allows him to gain more time on the pitch, however, and he really breaks through on the professional scene for his return to Ligue 2, resulting in a return to the top flight in June 2009. More mature and having seemingly gained in terms of attacking input, Boukari gains his place a full first-eleven member in Lens by the beginning of the 2010-2011, while accepting to represent Togo in international football, after years of wishful thinking that he could, one day, make it with Les Bleus.
With Lens struggling both on and off the pitch it was a little bit of a surprise that they accepted to sell him to the Stade Rennais during the winter transfer window. Ambitious, and expressing his wish to succeed on the big stage, Boukari arrived in Rennes with big shoes to fill. The club failed to replace Asamoah Gyan and Ismael Bangoura a few months later at the end of the summer transfer window and struggled through the autumn with the injuries of yet more important attacking players (Marveaux, Kembo, Brahimi…) leaving Frederic Antonetti with no other options than play all-defensive tactics with a team lacking any sort of strike force. Boukari is expected as an attacking messiah, and he will soon show what he is all about.
For his first game in Rennes, the Togolese international impressed on his new home turf. Despite failing to get on the score-sheet himself, Boukari delivered three assists and showed a real interesting level of activity and commitment on the pitch. Although the opposition on the night was particularly weak (Rennes would go on to trash third-tier Cannes 7-0 in a French Cup tie), the Rennes support can only be enchanted with their first glimpse of the former Lens man. Fast, strong, technically able and displaying good passing qualities, the new recruit seemed to tick all the boxes and to be gifted with all the qualities required to fulfil the ambitions of his new club. A few weeks later, Boukari scored his first goal for Rennes, despite his new team enduring a trouncing in Sochaux (5-1). He would go on to score again three days later in the Cup, in a run leading him to score a total of five goals in seven games in February and March 2011.
Unfortunately, his winning goal in Montpellier during Ligue 1’s 26th week was also his last goal of the season, and Boukari would sink with the rest of his team in a final third of the season, in which the rennais only managed one league win out of twelve games. Boukari, like most of his team-mates, seemed absolutely lost on the pitch, and the Togolese forward became the target of critics, both from the Rennes support for his apparent lack of commitment on the pitch, and from the specialised press in which he and several of his Rennes his team-mates are described as all-physical, technically unable players with no football intelligence. In a team falling apart under the combined pressure of poor results and fatigue, Boukari looked completely out of his depth, and his continued presence in the starting eleven in the final stages of the season is due mainly to the lack of back-up options available to Frederic Antonetti.
Despite this catastrophic end of the season, Rennes still manage to qualify for Europa League, and Boukari is back on the score-sheet for his team’s first outing, in Georgia against Metallurg Rustavi. Starting at centre-forward, Boukari managed a promising brace in a rather unusual position for him at Rennes. On target once again for his side’s Ligue 1 opener in Dijon, and three weeks later in Caen, Boukari seems to have returned to the sort of confidence that could make him more than just an utility player. However, a shoulder injury against Udinese in the Europa League comes to interrupt this nice spell. Worse, with Jires Kembo and Jonathan Pitroipa performing well on the wings and Victor Hugo Montano and Youssouf Hadji in competition at centre forward, Razak is left out of the Rennes set-up for good. Getting mainly substitute appearances, Boukari would score another two goals until the end of the season, for a total of eleven in his time in Rennes.
That would be all for a player who only ever managed to shine against teams from lower level or sides struggling against relegation and never seemed to have any impact or input to his team’s fortunes whenever Rennes wasn’t in a position of superiority and domination. This summer, with the arrivals of Romain Alessandrini and Sadio Diallo, and the possible integration of young attacking players from the Reserves, Boukari was invited to leave the club by the Rennes management. Left out of the squad for the first Ligue 1 games, like Yacine Brahimi, also looking for a way out , Boukari finally joined West Ham on a trial period early August. The trial was successful, but West Ham manager Sam Allardyce eventually preferred to recruit Matt Jarvis, the English international from Wolverhampton. Wolves moved quickly by turning their attention towards Boukari and offering him a four-year deal.
In the West Midlands, he joins another outcast from the Stade Rennais, Tongo Doumbia, who was loaned to the Wolves a few weeks ago and impressed the fans on his Championship debut. Razak Boukari will hope he can follow in the footsteps of his former Rennes team-mate and settle down successfully at Molineux.The expectations are high, however. Once again awaited as a saviour in a team that has just let go its two best attacking players – Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher scored twenty of the Wolves’ fourty league goals last season, Boukari will be considered as one of the best attacking assets in Ståle Solbakken’s squad.
In their quest for an immediate return to the English top flight Wolves have made the choice of a player seasoned to the exigencies of relegation and promotion struggles during his time in Lens. But if he wants to make it happen in England and finally fulfil his real potential, Boukari will also have to show an irreproachable behaviour and the fighting spirit he lacked during his stay in Brittany. If he fails to do that, no doubt that the story will repeat itself for a player who has progressively adopted inconsistency as his only trademark.