Brugge Boys: Ryan buzzing to link and live with Bernie Ibini in Belgium

Ben O'Neill Columnist

By Ben O'Neill, Ben O'Neill is a Roar Expert

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    Just more than two years ago when Mat Ryan was on the verge of his European move to Club Brugge from the A-League’s Central Coast Mariners, the Socceroos goalkeeper gave an interview in which he described his ‘no-frills’ lifestyle to a journalist.

    Then just 21, Ryan explained how he felt his simple existence – which included living in a caravan with close friend and teammate Bernie Ibini – had helped him reach the heights of Australia’s top flight and earn widespread recognition among the international football family at such a tender age.

    Indeed, the tunnel-visioned Ryan stated that he had no time to party, and no intention to fall into a trap that he believed had cost plenty of his former state side teammates their crack at life in the pro leagues.

    Ibini, Ryan said, shared his focus, meaning the duo could happily find comfort and concentration in their cosy caravan even in the lead-up to their biggest of matches with the Mariners.

    Remarkably, this European summer Ryan and Ibini are set to reunite at club level after two seasons apart – something Asian Cup winning custodian Ryan described aptly as surreal.

    “It’s been a surreal journey that we have had together,” Ryan told The Roar from Sydney where he is currently enjoying a month-long break – his first in three years.

    “It’s very rare that you hear of professional players that get to play with one of their best mates.

    “We got to represent our country together, we got to play at our first professional club together, and now to be playing together at an overseas club, and a big club at that, I think will be pretty special.

    “It will be another fortunate moment for me having Bernie in Brugge, and hopefully likewise for him having me there … hopefully it can lead to some more lifelong memories that we can share together.”

    Unlike Ryan, Ibini, most recently with Sydney FC in the A-League, is already in Belgium preparing for the Blue-Black’s 2015-16 domestic and continental campaigns.

    In fact, Ibini made his uncompetitive club debut in the second half of a friendly 10-0 hammering of second-tier KFC Heist last Friday, and may feature more for his new side over the coming weeks as Brugge play practice matches against Torhout KM, KSV Roeselare, Greek giants Panathinaikos, and Turkish Süper Lig club Basaksehir.

    Having displayed some stunning form for club and country since his arrival in Belgium, there remains the very real prospect that an even bigger European club from an even bigger European league could swoop for Ryan – who is contracted to Club Brugge until 2018 – in the current transfer window.

    But should a shift away from the Jan Breydel Stadium not eventuate over the coming weeks, Ryan will return to Brugge in mid-July ready to again not only team up, but also live with his former Westfields Sports High schoolmate.

    Suffice to say this time the pair will be in more stylish, yet nonetheless homely, digs.

    “He [Ibini] is at my apartment now,” Ryan said. “Depending on what happens in the summer, if I am to stay at Club Brugge, then we have already been planning the season in finding a new, bigger house.

    “My apartment at the moment has two bedrooms, so we want to have a spare room for visitors who might come over.

    “We’ll be living a little more luxurious as opposed to the caravan, but hopefully we’ll still have the same good times like we had at the caravan.

    “Fingers crossed the house can be a nice, warm, comforting place for us to relax, and I guess enable and help us to perform.

    “Obviously we’re not quite there yet, but I can’t help but dream of the little moments of success that we’ll have in this year coming up. Hopefully we can win plenty of games, some silverware, and have plenty of great moments to share again with our friendship.”

    Having been named Belgian Pro League Goalkeeper of the Year in each of his first two seasons with Michel Preud’homme’s men, Ryan fully understands and appreciates the level required to compete consistently and earn applause in Belgium’s top tier of football.

    Ryan believes Ibini – whose arrival Belgian media covered comprehensively – has the right skills and mindset to succeed during his three-season spell with the 13-time league champions.

    “Belgian football is quite open and free-flowing,” Ryan explained. “In the game time Bernie will get I think he will be able to show a lot of his attacking qualities, taking on players and hopefully getting into a lot of space to do what he does best.

    “Bernie’s signing was in the media a lot. When it first surfaced I had all the journos contacting me and asking if it’s true, asking my opinion on Bernie and what he can do.

    “Hopefully he can become one of the fan favourites with some good performances.”

    Ryan and Ibini could team up for their first shot at silverware with Club Brugge as early as July 17 when the side from West Flanders make a short trip to East Flanders to take on KAA Gent in the 2015 Belgian Super Cup.

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • June 30th 2015 @ 11:33am
      marcel said | June 30th 2015 @ 11:33am | ! Report

      Ibini must have been scouted by DVD …scored a couple of flashy close the eyes and just belt it goals….but he is entirely hopeless as a footballer.

      • June 30th 2015 @ 12:53pm
        Franko said | June 30th 2015 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

        Agreed, flashes of brilliance but hours of rubbish.

        Did SFC get a fee for him?

        Rafael Van Der Vaart used to live in a caravan………

        • Roar Pro

          July 1st 2015 @ 8:12pm
          Cronan Yu said | July 1st 2015 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

          SFC wouldn’t have gotten a fee for Ibini. He was owned by Shanghai Dongya.

      • June 30th 2015 @ 1:10pm
        Midfielder said | June 30th 2015 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

        We have a different opinion of what a good footballer is …

        • June 30th 2015 @ 4:39pm
          marcel said | June 30th 2015 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

          Fair enough Mid…but I don’t think the ability to trip over the ball or pass it to the opposition are skills that are highly valued in Europe…….I expect he will be back in the A league after a season.

          • July 9th 2015 @ 11:35am
            tony said | July 9th 2015 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            Having been to a few SFC games last season, it is tru that Ibni is still raw. Physically gifted but lacking skills.

      • June 30th 2015 @ 4:25pm
        jupiter53 said | June 30th 2015 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

        SFC member here.
        I agree that he is inconsistent, and tantalisingly so, because at his best he is very very good. However there was no doubting his effort for us through the season, and I expect him to continue to improve.

      • June 30th 2015 @ 4:39pm
        Gareth said | June 30th 2015 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

        He scored those goals pretty consistently towards the end of the season though. Definitely inconsistent, but excellent at his best.

      • June 30th 2015 @ 6:16pm
        Batou said | June 30th 2015 @ 6:16pm | ! Report

        Bernie can be a bit inconsistent, although this is something that he has improved a lot recently I think, but he is definitely not entirely hopeless as a footballer. Luckily for him, people like you aren’t scouting for clubs and the people who are have a better eye for talent. Clearly Club Brugge believe that he is either good enough, or at least has enough potential, to play at that level.

        As a Sydney fan, it’s a shame to lose him as once he settled he was very good for us last season.

    • June 30th 2015 @ 3:20pm
      Franko said | June 30th 2015 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

      Forgot to mention. Great piece Ben, really enjoyed it.

    • June 30th 2015 @ 8:38pm
      RBBAnonymous said | June 30th 2015 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

      Bernie has improved out of sight, especially in the last two months of the A-league. He is doing well and will only get better. In fact out of all the Australian players I have seen he has the most potential to succeed and go to a big league in Europe. Big fan of Bernie and he will only get better.

      • July 1st 2015 @ 10:57am
        The artist formerly known as Punter said | July 1st 2015 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        Cannot agree more.

    • June 30th 2015 @ 9:35pm
      Aljay said | June 30th 2015 @ 9:35pm | ! Report

      Great piece but I get the feeling that Brugge only signed him to keep Maty around. Bernie would have more of a shot at a mid level club in Belgium than Brugge, this feels a step too far. Hope I’m wrong though.

      • July 1st 2015 @ 1:07pm
        Gareth said | July 1st 2015 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

        I’m expecting him to be a squaddie, coming off the bench and maybe getting a start here and there when there’s an injury. Hopefully over the next couple of years he gets some more regular game time for though.

    • Roar Guru

      July 7th 2015 @ 11:01am
      Nicholas Rupolo said | July 7th 2015 @ 11:01am | ! Report

      So upset now that Ibini has picked up s massive injury – possibly breaking his leg – so much potential in his first season – that kills

      • July 9th 2015 @ 11:47am
        tony said | July 9th 2015 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        he had fractured his fibula.- Not sure if that equate to breaking his leg.

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