This life in soccer has taken Victor Wanyama far and wide, from Kenya to Sweden then Belgium to England, and now Canada.
Wanyama climbed to the top of game, playing for Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur and quickly became a fan favorite as the club continued to defy expectations. They hung around in title races and made a Champions League final, some of their best seasons in decades. He still holds his time with Spurs close to his heart, even though he left to join the Montreal Impact this winter in search for more regular playing time.
In Montreal, Wanyama's new manager is Thierry Henry, perhaps the greatest ever player for Arsenal, Spurs' bitter rivals. The irony is not lost on him.
“He’s an Arsenal legend and a very good manager, but we’ll never agree to anything regarding Spurs and Arsenal," Wanyama told MLSsoccer.com with a laugh. “I will always be Spurs through and through."
Wanyama still keeps in touch with former teammates back in London as he stays fit in Montreal. On top of the team's fitness packet during the training moratorium, Wanyama adds to his workout by spurning the elevator and running up the stairs to his 64th-floor apartment.
He joined the Impact only with enough time for a cameo in the Concacaf Champions League before most of the sports world was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, still awaiting his MLS debut.
“My old teammates are fine, they're not giving me much banter about Henry," Wanyama said. "If we were in England and I played for Arsenal, it’d be different. But I’ll always support Spurs, they're not winding me up. They know I’m Tottenham forever.”
Wanyama made 97 appearances for the club across all competitions over three and a half seasons in North London. The team finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th in his three full seasons in the league after not finishing in the top three since 1989-90. They enjoyed a memorable run to the Champions League final, losing to domestic foes Liverpool. They also were semifinalists in the FA Cup twice and the League Cup once.
But no trophies.
“It’s sad," Wanyama said. "I felt sorry leaving like that, I’m sorry to the fans and myself after having a top team, performing at our best, but not winning anything. It’s just a shame. It’s painful to have left with nothing.”
Wanyama with Christian Eriksen at Tottenham. Both players left the club this winter | Action Images
Wanyama had a similar feeling of disappointment at Southampton. The team regularly punched above their weight but couldn't convert those good times into hardware.
“Our team was really strong at Southampton with top players, it’s unbelievable we didn’t win anything," Wanyama lamented. "It happened twice for me, at Southampton then Spurs. We had an unbelievable team, but we didn’t win anything.”
It is worth noting Wanyama did win two league titles and a cup during his two seasons at Celtic, so his trophy cabinet isn't empty.
Part of the problem at Southampton was the club's stature in England, often selling their best players. It starts with their famed academy that produced the likes of Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and others, as well as their eye for young talent across the continent. During Wanyama's time they sold Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, Morgan Schneinderlin and others to Premier League rivals.
To Liverpool, in particular, there was a well-traveled path. Liverpool bought Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane from Southampton during that period, and would later add Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool long needed a defensive midfielder and, given he was Southampton's best, rumors regularly linked Wanyama to follow in the footsteps of former teammates.
"At some point they were calling us the reserve team of Liverpool," Wanyama chuckled. "But I didn’t think they were going to buy me. There were rumors, but I don’t know if there was any truth to it.”
Wanyama has had only a few training sessions with his new teammates and one competitive match, a 2-1 loss in the Concacaf Champions League on the final night MLS teams played competitive matches before both MLS and CCL suspended play. He's impressed with his teammates and the club, thus is hopeful he won't reflect on a trophy-less time with Montreal.
“I think there is no limit to what we can do," Wanyama asserted.