The Vancouver Whitecaps today announced the signing of Argentine central defender Martin Bonjour.
Bonjour, who played as Fernando Martin Bonjour in South America, is a 26-year-old big (listed between 6'3" and 6'5") central defender with a Greg Janicki-like knack for scoring with his head. The few blurbs I can find, as well as a YouTube video from his agency found by Matt Marson on Twitter, emphasize his physicality but mark him down for athleticism; really, the Janicki comparisons just keep on coming.
Obviously, I've never seen Bonjour play. I bet few of you have. He has no international experience at any level. Bonjour has very limited experience in first-class leagues: one game with Argentinian first division side Club Olympio as a youngster. Bonjour was signed by Polish first division club Lech Poznań in 2006 based off of video rather than in-person scouting, but he washed out of Poland without any real action. Most of Bonjour's first-team experience has come in the Uruguayan first division, along with some time in Peru. He last played with Liverpool; sadly, not that Liverpool.
Bonjour's pedigree does not suggest much more than a journeyman. It was only yesterday that Bonjour's release was officially announced, although speculation he would not return to Liverpool is weeks old. He is not a player of great interest and, while big, strong, hard-tackling defenders have found their success in Major League Soccer, he hardly seems like the sort of name you chase as an MLS international.
The Uruguayan Primera División, in which Bonjour was good enough to play regularly but not so good as to be a core player, is a strong league (although not a world-class one). It's ranked in the second tier of South American leagues behind Brazil and Argentina. His most recent club, Liverpool, is not a major contender but has produced players of international reputation such as controversial Qatari international Sebastián Soria and Porto standout Jorge Fucile. Liverpool also participated in the 2011 Copa Libertadores, where they went out in the first stage to Brazil's Grêmio; Bonjour played 90 minutes in the second leg and picked up a yellow card.
I frankly don't know a lot about the Uruguayan league or its players but, with this in mind, it seems hard to expect a lot from Bonjour. His pedigree suggests that he's probably of MLS quality, but with large question marks about how he'll adjust to the league. Hopefully he comes cheap.
Bonjour's arrival seems like bad news for Michael Boxall. Both players are tall, tough central defenders who take up international slots. There was little enough room for both Boxall and Janicki on last year's Whitecaps; you could never have them both playing at the same time or the lack of pace would murder the team. Based on what I know today I'd rather have Boxall than Bonjour (younger, a great attitude, an English speaker), but of course Bonjour is an unknown quantity. By my count, the Whitecaps now have nine international spots in use: Bonjour, Boxall, Camilo, Chiumiento, Hassli, Jarju, Koffie, Lee, and Mitchell; using two of those spots on depth central defenders seems like a questionable proposition.
That said, the Whitecaps still only have four central defenders under contract: Bonjour, Boxall, Carlyle Mitchell, and Jay DeMerit. While I'm concerned about having too many big slow players back there, we certainly needed another warm body in the middle of the park (and even now, another utility defender who can play CB would be a good idea). Mitchell, who is quick and agile, might be able to support both Boxall and Bonjour if he's really as good as he looked at the end of the season.
This is not a major signing and the Whitecaps aren't treating it like one. He is, however, an established professional player at a position we need depth. Forgive me if I'm not too excited, but also don't expect me to be disappointed. We'll see what he's like when he gets here.