Arnold Bouka Moutou would just as soon focus on what’s ahead, not what’s already mercifully faded in his rear-view mirror. After all as debuts go – heck, as entire seasons go – his Canadian Premier League launch with Valour FC was akin to getting a flat tire, then a fender bender just en route to the pitch. That, in part, is why the veteran left back has opted to sign back with Valour for 2021. There’s some unfinished business both for the club and, especially, for himself after injuries limited him to just 70 minutes in two matches at The Island Games this past summer. "You couldn’t write a worse year for the lad," Valour coach Rob Gale told CanPL.ca. "I mean, he flew in two days after lockdown, had to quarantine for the first two weeks with his new-born child and his wife. He didn’t get to meet us for the first two months of his stay in Winnipeg other than via Zoom calls. "Ultimately he couldn’t show what he wanted to show. The sad part about that is going in (to The Island Games) is if you asked any of our players who has been the best in training, operates at the highest level day in day out and is technically one of our best players no doubt Arnold would be on top of most people’s lists. And, he was our fittest player even at the ripe old age of 33. "It was massively disappointing for us for him to have that injury. It’s just one of those things that can happen after a lengthy layoff. We really want him to show in games what we saw in training."
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Bouka Moutou was certainly one of the CPL’s most-intriguing signings heading into 2020. A veteran of 19 international matches with the Congolese senior national team, he had spent three seasons in France’s Ligue 1 with Dijon and Angers. That experience was displayed by anyone who saw Valour train this summer before The Island Games. Unfortunately, he injured his hamstring in the 65th minute of the club’s first match against Cavalry FC and then attempted to make a return in the finale, a 2-2 draw with Forge FC, but lasted just five minutes before getting hurt again. He returned to France after the season and has slowly recovered to the point where he is now training again with Angers. "We know how good a footballer he is," Gale said. "We’re hoping that in a full year and proper integration he can get back to the level he’s shown for his whole career. "He and his family really seemed to like it here. He got to meet the Francophone community and he really fit in well with the whole squad. It’s a good fit for both." Proof to that – aside from Bouka Moutou’s limited minutes – is the impact he had before the Island Games on some of Valour’s still-growing younger players. "The biggest impact he had was on players like Federico Pena," Gale said. "Arnold played in one of the top four leagues in the world and to see that day in, day out and how he prepares himself and trains… there’s no doubt it helped Federico in his maturity. I think there was a huge learning curve for Federico. Our young Canadian players need players like this in the league. "There’s been interest all over Europe in him but he feels he didn’t show what he was capable of and wants to return. We’re just lucky he’s ready to come back for another year."