Gent’s chief executive Michel Louwagie and head of recruitment Samuel Cardenas have spoken out about their star striker, Gift Orban, ahead of their Europa Conference League quarter-final clash against West Ham United on Thursday.
Louwagie believes Orban looks better than former Gent forward Jonathan David while Cardenas is pleased that the young Nigerian has been worth the transfer troubles they went through over him.
Orban, signed on the last day of the January transfer window for 3.5m euros (£3.06m), was considered a major gamble by the Belgian press for someone who had only played a few months in the Norwegian Second Division.
However, the Nigerian has proved to be an incredible asset for the Belgian side, scoring twice on his debut against Westerlo and continuing to impress in subsequent matches.
Orban scored a stunning goal to help Gent beat Anderlecht, netted four goals in the second half of a 6-2 win at Zulte Waregem, and hit a four-minute hat-trick in the 4-0 win at Istanbul Basaksehir.
He is a gamble that has made his recruiter a genius.
“The price was supposed to be lower, but it went up after David Datro Fofana was sold from Molde to Chelsea for 12m euros (£10.5m),” Louwagie told the BBC. “It was a risk, but head of recruitment Samuel Cardenas kept telling me every day that we absolutely must sign him.”
Cardenas added: “From the first time I watched Gift, I saw something special in him. His movement is exceptional; he is complete in the sense that he can combine and score in every way technically. We were brave to gamble on him, but my opinion was trusted, and it pays off to be bold. I would lie, though, if I said that I expected him to perform so fast.”
Orban’s versatility as an attacker has been a key part of his success, with the Nigerian not just a predator in the penalty area but also comfortable moving to the wings and shooting from distance.
“It is possible to compare him to Jonathan David, the Canadian star whom we sold to Lille in 2020 and who is now the top scorer in Ligue 1,” added Louwagie. “Gift might even be a more complete striker because he has vision and is a good passer.”
Gent will hope Orban can continue his impressive form as they face off against West Ham United in the Europa Conference League quarter-finals tonight.