One of Bono’s stops during the Europa League final (REUTERS/John Sibley)
When you are touched by the magic wand, you can feel invincible. If that special aura surrounds a soccer goalkeeper, the opposing team can already forget to prosper when push comes to shove. In recent months, it is very possible that Yassine Bounou, better known as Bono, has had the feeling, to a greater or lesser extent, that there is no ball that can resist him. Above all, in the most difficult moment that a goalkeeper can face in a game: penalties. If they come in a batch and not alone, the challenge is even greater: winning or losing is defined by 11 meters. A fetish distance for the African in recent times, since he has led the Moroccan team to glory first and then Sevilla precisely because of his idyll with maximum penalty saves.
It all began on December 6, 2022, an unfortunate memory for the Spanish team. In the round of 16 of the World Cup in Qatar, the Moroccan team began to achieve the greatest milestone in its football history. It did so at the expense of the men then led by Luis Enrique, who had to leave Arab lands after being eliminated by the neighboring country. After a 0-0 loss once regulation time and extra time had been played, the future of both national teams in the tournament had to be settled from the penalty spot. In that solitary duel with the pitcher on duty, Bono became a giant: he stopped two of the three Spanish attempts so that Morocco reached the quarterfinals (3-0 on penalties).
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That story had an inevitably happy ending, as the Atlas Lions finished the World Cup in fourth position. Not content with his paramount importance in that feat, Bono decided to reissue his role at the club level. Five months after being one of the Moroccan heroes (no doubt about it), he enjoyed the same condition in regards to Sevilla before an event as momentous as the Europa League final.
Bono, Salvador before Belotti (REUTERS/Marton Monus)
There was no way for the electronic to overcome the tie. After 90 minutes of the game and 30 of extra time, 1-1. Again penalties. Bonus again. Again, as in the World Cup, two stops. With a title at stake, the Moroccan made the difficult easy again. Ask Mancini and Ibáñez, whose shots did not come to fruition courtesy of the Sevilla goalkeeper. Conclusion? Seventh Sevillian trophy in the second European competition (4-1 final on penalties) and a new feat for the now two-time Europa League winner as a Sevilla player. The statistics, not only because of what happened in Qatar, were on his side: of the three penalties he had to face in LaLiga, Bono saved one (33% effectiveness).
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That Bono is sweet is not something that is only applicable to penalties. Before the outcome, he already made merits to become the most decisive footballer of the match, with several great saves that galvanized his team. In the 12th minute, Spinazzola couldn’t beat him, in what was Roma’s clearest chance of the first half. Already in the second, he took a miraculous ball from Abraham in minute 67. Not content with that, he stopped with his fingers another ball with the scent of a goal in a poisoned free kick by Belotti.
With the addition of his key actions on penalties, UEFA was clear: the best player in the final had been Bono. In a year of “many emotions”, as he himself acknowledged, things continue to go extremely well for the Montreal-born player. The link with Spain continues to give him enormous returns: he has not known another football since he left Wydad Casablanca (with which he was champion of his country) in 2012.
Bono in action against Mancini (REUTERS/Marton Monus)
Atlético de Madrid gave him a League and a Spanish Super Cup in 2014, with stops in Zaragoza (on loan from Atleti) and Girona before finally settling in Seville. There, Bono has managed to reign in Europe and, above all, establish himself as a renowned goalkeeper. At 32, he has achieved it without making noise, earning the starting position (he started as a substitute at both Sevilla and Girona) and, unlike his Irish namesake, without singing. Quite the opposite.
Sevilla wins its seventh Europa LeagueThis was the rest of the Europa League won by Sevilla