Yassine “Bono” Bounou – Morocco’s Goalkeeper

Yassine Bounou #13 of Sevilla during the UEFA Champions League match Manchester City vs Sevilla at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, United Kingdom, 2nd November 2022 (Photo by Mark Cosgrove/News Images)

In football, every team that has performed in the big tournaments has an unsung hero. Bono is the hero of this story. Yassine Bounou has been one of the best goalkeepers in the world recently, especially after Sevilla’s exploits in Europe and Morocco’s dream run at the World Cup, where he showed his excellence. The Moroccan goalkeeper was outstanding between the sticks.

 

Yassine Bounou was born on 4 April 1991 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to Moroccan parents. However, when he was three years old, his parents returned to Morocco. In Morocco, he fell in love with the beautiful game and became what he is now. The streets of Morocco made him the player that he is today.

Yassine Bounou #13 of Sevilla during the UEFA Champions League match Manchester City vs Sevilla at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, United Kingdom, 2nd November 2022
(Photo by Mark Cosgrove/News Images)

He started his youth career in the youth team of Wydad AC in Morocco in 1999. After some impressive performances in the first team, he moved to Madrid, Spain, for Atletico Madrid’s B team.

Bounou spent the majority of his time in Spain in the Spanish first tier before his recent move to the Saudi Pro League. He is currently the showstopper for Al-Hilal.

Let’s take a look into the life of Yassin Bounou in detail.

Early Life and Wydad AC

Bounou moved to Casablanca, Morocco, with his parents when he was three. It is here he started to play football on the streets at a young age. In 1999 when he was 8 years old, he joined the youth setup of Wydad AC.

Like every small kid, he also wanted to play further up the field; however, his coaches at the club suggested he play in the net. His talent between the sticks was evident from a very young age, and his coaches realised his potential straight away.

When Bounou started to spend the majority of his time playing football, his parents were not very supportive.

However, later on, realising his potential and a probable career in the game, they backed their boy. He was performing so well that when he was 17, a scout of OGC Nice spotted him and offered him a contract. But his transfer was not completed due to some bureaucratic issues and eventually that move broke down.

In 2010, he was promoted to the first team of Wydad. In 2011, he made his debut for the first team and was with the team till the summer of 2012. At Wydad AC, Bono made only 10 appearances, but his talent was there to be seen.

Honours

  • Botola 2009-2010

Atletico Madrid

Yassine Bounou joined Atletico Madrid on June 4, 2012. He was assigned to the reserve team of the club that played in the Segunda Division B. However, Bounou featured on the bench regularly for the first team as the third-choice goalkeeper for Atletico Madrid.

In May 2013, he signed a four-year contract with the club.  He was promoted to the first team after the departure of first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Moreover, he made his debut for the first team of Atletico Madrid in a friendly that summer.

But in September, surprisingly, he was loaned out to Real Zaragoza. Bounou never made a first-team appearance for Atletico in a competitive match.

Honours

  • La Liga 2013-2014

Real Zaragoza – Proving Grounds

Yassine Bounou was loaned out to Real Zaragoza on 1st September 2014 for a year-long loan. Although Zaragoza was in the second tier of the Spanish football league, Bonou faced tough competition from Oscar Whalley.

However, he made his debut on 11 January in a losing cause against UD Las Palmas. In the second half of the season, Bounou made a total of 16 appearances for Zaragoza. After a dip in form for Whalley in the playoffs for promotion, Bounou was given the chance. Bounou grabbed the opportunity as his performance made him the first choice for the team.

In 2015 he was again sent on a season-long loan to Zaragoza, but this time he was the undisputed first-choice keeper. At Real Zaragoza, Bounou made 35 appearances in his two years stay with the team.

Girona – Realising Potential

Yassine Bounou’s consistently high performances for Real Zaragoza led Girona to sign him permanently on a two-year contract. Bounou, in his first year at Girona, shared the role with Rene Roman. He became the first choice between the sticks for Girona in his second season.

In 2018 Girona was promoted to the La Liga. After half a season being the first choice of Girona in the top flight of Spain, he signed a 2 years contract extension till 2021. However, after Girona was relegated, he was sent on a season-long loan to La Liga side Sevilla. At Girona, Bounou made a total of 83 appearances.

Sevilla – Star in the Making

Yassine Bounou signed on loan to Sevilla from Girona on a one-year deal in 2019. Although he was the second choice at Sevilla when he joined, Bono was given regular game time in cup competitions throughout the year.

It was in these cup matches for Sevilla that Bounou got a lot of praise, especially in the Europa League matches, because of his performances.

In the quarter-finals of the Europa League, he saved a crucial penalty from Wolverhampton’s Raul Jimenez, which helped Sevilla reach the semi-finals. In the semifinals against Manchester United, Bounou had another solid two legs between the sticks as they progressed to the finals.

Moreover, in the finals of the Europa League, Bono shone throughout the match. At one point, he made an excellent stop to deny Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku. This helped Sevilla win their sixth Europa League.

Bono’s consistent performances made Sevilla make his loan move a permanent one, as he was signed in 2020. He signed a four-year deal with Sevilla. On March 21, Bounou scored the first goal of his professional career that, helped Sevilla draw the match against Real Valladolid.

20-21 Season

The 2020-21 season for Bounou was an excellent one, as he became the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets in Europe. Thus, becoming one of the best goalkeepers in Europe.

21-22 Season

In the 2021- 22 season, Bounou kept on performing at the highest level, moreover, he registered his first assist for Sevilla. Sevilla offered Bounou another contract extension till 2025.

22-23 Season

The 2022-23 season was another remarkable year for Yassine Bounou, both domestically and internationally; he kept on performing at the highest level. Although Sevilla struggled in the league in the first half of the season, they bounced back. It was in the Europa League that they shone, they breezed through the group stages.

Some excellent performances in goal from Bounou helped Sevilla reach yet another Europa League final. In the final against Roma, Sevilla drew the game 1-1. The game went to penalties, where two excellent saves from Bounou in the penalty shootout helped Sevilla lift their 7th Europa League title. He made a total of 90 appearances for Sevilla, with his first career goal also coming here.

Honours

  • Europa League 2019-2020, 2022-2023

Al-Hilal – Continuing the Story

Like many big names, Bounou also joined the Saudi revolution as he joined Al-Hilal on a three-year contract.

Morocco’s Goalkeeper

The international career of Yassine Bounou was full of ups and downs, just like his club career. Since he was born in Canada and his parents were from Morocco, he was eligible to play for either of them internationally.

However, he chose Morocco, where he was given his first chance in the under-20 team for the Toulon Tournament in 2012. In this tournament, he was given a chance to play in only a single match.

Bono was selected for the Moroccan national team to represent them at the 2012 Olympics. However, he was the second choice in the competition to Mohamed Amsif.

The Moroccan team was unable to get out of the group in the Olympics.

After this, a great offer was given to Bounou by Canadian coach Benito Floro to represent Canada. This was revealed by Bounou himself in an interview. Although this never happened, Bounou also said in the interview that he always dreamed of representing Morocco on the international stage as he grew up in the country.

Bono’s first international cap came in August 2013 in a friendly match against Burkina Faso. He got his debut as a substitute, as he was subbed in the second half of the match.

From 2013 till 2018, Bono was very much in and out of the Moroccan national team, as his chances were very limited. In 2015 he played 3 matches which was followed by 2 matches in both 2016 and 2017.

Bonou was getting very limited opportunities to prove himself on the international stage. In the 2018 FIFA World Cup of Russia, he was included in the 23-man squad of the team. He made four appearances in 2018.

The African Cup of Nations in 2019 was the first time Bounou became the undisputed number one between the sticks for Morocco. Morocco kept two clean sheets in the group stages against Ivory Coast and Namibia and made it to the knockout stage of the tournament.

Bounou was making headlines at the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, as he defended the Arabic language by speaking Arabic in the interviews because the organisers did not have an Arabic translator. This act by Bounou made headlines all over the world, and many supported it.

Making His Way to the Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 – Team of Morocco

 

2022 was THE year for Bounou as he was named in the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup team of Morocco. He was the first-choice keeper for Morocco under coach Walid Regragui. The team was drawn in Group F with 2018 runner-up Croatia, Mighty Belgium, and Canada.

 

In the first game against Croatia, the game ended in a draw as Bounou had his first clean sheet of the world cup. In the second match against group favourites Belgium, the Moroccan team surprised everyone by beating them 2-0.

 

In the final match of the group, they won against Canada 2-1 and moved on to the knockouts of the tournament.

 

In the Round of 16 match against Spain, Bounou and the entire Moroccan team were excellent as they kept a clean sheet against the 2010 World Cup winners and eventually won the match on penalties 3-0.

 

In the quarter-finals, Morocco faced another European giant Portugal, but again Bono had an excellent game as Morocco won 1-0 and progressed into the semi-finals. Morocco went out in the semis, but Yassine Bounou managed to keep four clean sheets, the most by any goalkeeper in the tournament.

Bounou also became the first African Player to keep 3 clean sheets in a World Cup.  

Club Statistics

The professional career of Yassine Bounou started in the 2010-11 season when he was promoted to the first team by his childhood club Wydad AC.

At Wydad AC, in his first season, he got no chances, and in his second season got only 10 appearances under his belt.

After signing with Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2012, he played for the Atletico Madrid B team for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons making 24 and 23 appearances, respectively.

Bounou made a total of 38 appearances for Real Zaragoza in the two seasons for the team on loan from Atletico Madrid. In 2014-15 he made 16 appearances, and in 2015-16 he made 19 appearances.

After signing for Girona, Bounou played for them for 3 seasons till 2018-19, making a total of 84 appearances.

In 2019-20, Bounou signed for Sevilla on loan and made it a permanent move in the following season. For Sevilla, he made a total of 142 appearances.

International Statistics

Yassine Bounou was an understudy for almost the first half of his international career. However, since 2019 he has been the number one between the sticks for Morocco and has performed exceptionally. He has a total of 53 appearances for Morocco.

Major Trophies and Accolades Won

Bounou has played the majority of his career for mid-table teams or teams going up and down from La Liga to Segunda Division.

So far, Bono has won 4 major trophies in his club career, Botola with Wydad FC in 2009, the 2014 La Liga title with Atletico Madrid, and 2 Europa League titles in 2020 and 2023 with Sevilla.

The major personal accolades Bounou are the La Liga Zamora Trophy for 2021-22, UEFA Europa League Team of the Season 2019-20, 2022-23, La Liga Team of the Season 2021-22, and African Player of the Year 2023 along with many others.