THE FAMILY MAN
Denis Bouanga describes himself as a family man, and given how much his family has influenced his career path in football, that comes as no surprise. Bouanga spent a lot of time playing soccer when he was little with his brother Didier, who wanted to go pro himself. Denis' love of football and desire to become a professional player was born during those days playing the sport with his brother, and today he feels that he owes his career, in part, to his brother Didier. Additionally, Bouanga watched St Etienne soccer games at home with his dad when he was little; his father was extremely excited for him to go play there and his entire family went to see him play against Paris Saint Germain.
A GABON INTERNATIONAL
Bouanga's father is from Gabon, a country along the Atlantic Coast of Central Africa. His mother is from France. Bouanga and his brother and sister were born in France. The footballer had never actually been to Gabon before joining the national team. While eligible for the French National Team, he decided to play for his father’s country because he believed that Gabon was the best choice for him in international football, with a clear path to see first team minutes and provide the opportunity to play in big competitions such as the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup Qualifying. Bouanga first received a call-up to the Gabon National Team for a match against Mauritania May 28, 2016. He played for Gabon in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, and has appeared 31 times for Gabon, scoring seven goals and registering four assists.
NEXT STOP, L.A.
During his career, Bouanga has spent the majority of his time in Ligue 1, the top league in France, while also appearing in Ligue 2. He began his career playing for Lorient in the top flight, before being loaned to Strasbourg in 2016. Strasbourg played in the French second level at the time, but earned its way back into Ligue 1 by winning the championship in the 2016-17 season. Bouanga was loaned out to Tours in 2016, where he scored a career-high 16 goals in 36 appearances before returning to Lorient for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He spent the 2018-19 season at Nimes, before signing with Saint-Étienne in 2019, where he scored 26 goals over 97 appearances over three seasons before joining LAFC.
"We’re incredibly excited to welcome Denis and his family to L.A.,” LAFC Co-President & General Manager John Thorrington said. “I don’t think this was the plan for the next step of his career, but he showed a great willingness to sacrifice and do whatever he could to make sure this happened.”
At just 27 years old, Bouanga's stock as a player was on the rise, and he had multiple suitors from Europe that LAFC had to beat to sign him.
"We knew we were facing stiff competition to get his signature,” Thorrington said. “What Denis’ signing says about the league and about LAFC is that we are now attracting players in their prime from Europe that are choosing to come here. That’s a testament to what LAFC has done as a club, providing a platform that’s very appealing to these players, as well as the league. You’re seeing a number of these signings across the league and it’s a testament to the growth of our league."
READY TO WIN WHILE STILL DEVELOPING
LAFC's roster development tactic since its inception has been to acquire young, promising players and develop them into top flight players that can potentially be moved to situations that are mutually beneficial to all involved. While Thorrington has successfully moved players such as Diego Rossi and this season defender Mamadou Fall to Villareal of La Liga, the acquisition of Bouanga shows that the Club is also interested in bringing in experienced, veteran talent to help win big matches.
"We still have many young talented players in whom we’ve invested a great deal,” Thorrington said. “We like their development, but [we also like] the ability to add experienced players to help show them the ropes. Keep in mind that LAFC is not just about player development. It’s a big part of our operation, but it’s also to win. With the acquisitions we have made, both within the league and bringing in some players from abroad as well, we felt like it helps our overall ability to develop young players, win, and then move them on when the time is right."