He made his professional debut for Sochaux in 2010, and played 107 official games for them over five seasons, scoring 21 goals. He then moved to Bursaspor for €1.8 million, finishing as top scorer as his team came runners-up in the Turkish Cup, before signing for Villarreal a year later.
Born in France, he represented that country up to under-20 level, totalling 8 goals in 38 games and winning the 2010 UEFA European Championship for the under-19s. In 2015, he made his senior debut for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Born in Vitry-sur-Seine, Val-de-Marne, Bakambu began his career at local US Ivry at the age of 10 before transferring to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard four years later.
On 1 May 2010, Bakambu played in the 2010 Coupe Gambardella Final and scored a goal for his team at the Stade de France. Sochaux, however, lost the match 4–3 on penalties. He had previously scored a double in the team’s 4–3 aggregate semi-final victory over FC Metz.
Bakambu made his professional debut on 7 August 2010 in Souchaux’s opening match of the Ligue 1 season against Arles-Avignon, appearing as an 83rd-minute substitute for Modibo Maïga in a 2–1 win at the Stade Auguste Bonal. The following month, he signed his first professional contract agreeing to a three-year deal with the club until June 2013.
On 17 September 2011, Bakambu scored his first professional goal, the first equaliser in a 2–2 draw at Lille OSC, eleven minutes after replacing Carlāo. A year and nine days later, as a 66th-minute replacement for King Osanga, he scored twice in a 3–2 extra-time home win over Evian Thonon Gaillard F.C. in the third round of the Coupe de la Ligue.
Bakambu scored seven goals in 31 appearances over the 2013–14 Ligue 1 season, in which Sochaux were relegated; this included two on 21 December in a 2–1 home win over Stade Rennais F.C.. Across the campaign, he was placed on the right wing by manager Hervé Renard until he would become sufficiently mentally mature for a centre-forward role. On 23 March, he was sent off for handball in a 2–1 loss at A.S. Saint-Étienne.
On 1 September 2014, Bakambu left France for the first time, moving on a four-year transfer to Turkey’s Bursaspor for a fee of €1.8 million and an annual salary of €800,000. He made his debut in the Süper Lig twelve days later, replacing Ozan İpek in the 55th minute of a 2–1 win at Gençlerbirliği S.K.. His first goals for the “Green Crocodiles” came on 19 October, in either half of a 2–2 draw against Eskişehirspor at the Bursa Atatürk Stadium, and six days later he scored a first professional hat-trick in a 5–0 win at Balıkesirspor. He finished his only league season in Bursa with 13 goals in 27 games.
In the season’s domestic cup, Bakambu was the top scorer with eight goals in 12 games as his team reached the final before a 3–2 home loss to Galatasaray. This tally included trebles in a 5–0 win at Mersin İdmanyurdu on 27 January and a 3–0 victory over Fatih Karagümrük S.K. nine days later, both in the group stage. As Galatasaray won the double, Bursaspor faced them in the 2015 Turkish Super Cup on 8 August, with Bakambu playing the whole of the 1–0 loss
Bakambu in action for Villarreal in December 2015.
On 19 August 2015, Spanish side Villarreal CF announced the signing of Bakambu on a five-year contract. He made his La Liga debut four days later, replacing Léo Baptistão in the 61st minute of a 1–1 draw at Real Betis in the first game of the season; on the 28th he came on for the same player and scored two goals in the closing minutes of the fixture against RCD Espanyol at Estadio El Madrigal, to secure a 3–1 victory for the “Yellow Submarine”.
Bakambu played his first game in European competition on 17 September, again as a substitute in a 2–1 loss at SK Rapid Wien in the group stage of the season’s UEFA Europa League. On 22 October, he scored his first goals in the tournament, a first-half double in a 4–0 home win over FC Dinamo Minsk; he added another two the following 10 March against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the first leg of the last 16 (2–0 win, same aggregate). In the quarter-finals, he scored twice in each leg of a 6–3 aggregate win over Sparta Prague. He was one of four strikers named in the competition’s Squad of the Season, and his 9 goals put him only one behind the top scorer, Athletic Bilbao’s Aritz Aduriz.
Bakambu was a French youth international and has represented the country at both under-18 and under-19 level. He was a part of the team that won the 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship on home soil. On 18 July, he scored twice in a 4–1 opening win over the Netherlands in Caen, and the 2–1 winner against Croatia in the semi-finals nine days later, also at the Stade Michel d’Ornano. He was also part of the team that came fourth at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia, opening a 2–0 win over Mali in the last group game in Cali.
In March 2015, he opted to represent DR Congo at senior level. On arrival in Kinshasa he was greeted by fans with banners of him, later reflecting “I hadn’t even played a match yet they made banners for me. It’s really something else. It was through football that I discovered my country.”
He was first called up in June ahead of a friendly against Cameroon on the 9th, and started that match, a 1–1 draw at the Stade Charles Tondreau in Mons, Belgium.
On 26 March the following year, Bakambu scored his first international goal, opening a 2–1 win over Angola at the Stade des Martyrs with a penalty, in qualification for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. He added two more on 5 June, in a 6–1 win away to Madagascar.