Taiwo Awoniyi has returned to Anfield after seven loan moves armed with the “Almighty” British Work Permit, but has he finally come to stay at the red half of Jurgen Klopp’s Merseyside, IKENWA NNABUOGOR ponders…
When Liverpool signed former Golden Eaglets’ striker or winger Taiwo Awoniyi in 2015, it appeared the British Work Permit to enable him become the second Nigerian after Victor Moses to play for the Merseyside giants was never going to happen.
But a dint of hard work from the 23-year old over the years was enough to finally to hand him the “almost” impossible work permit that has prevented many young African talents to showcase their stocks in England.
As seemingly obnoxious as the 75 percent national team requirements for non EU players may be, several players especially from Africa have lost their way in search of these requirements to fulfill their dreams of playing in England, considered as the most glamorous in the world.
Awoniyi has defied all that to force his way back to his original club, who also showed some commitments by extending his contract while he was on loan.
Klopp named the returnee loan player in his 34-man team in the pre-season tour of Austria ahead of the league opener in August 14 to demonstrate it could well be a full “home coming” for the former NEC Nijmegen striker.
Added to this inclusion in the Liverpool team was also a whiff of special “package” of jersey number 34 muted to be assigned to the former FSV Frankfurt striker – a clear indication that the Ilorin-born star could be sweating it out in the star-studded Liverpool attacking line made up of Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and even loan returnee Takumi Minamoto.
Liverpool begin their 2021/22 season preparations against Austria’s FC Wils on Tuesday and it appears Awoniyi will be donning the highly Reds’ colours for the first since he began his association with the Klopp side six years ago.
With Firmino, Mane and Salah enjoying extended holidays, Awoniyi will definitely announce his presence to impress Klopp and the Kop faithful to shelve any loan plans.
Experiences from seven loan spells, including a double at Belgium’s Excelsior Mouscron will be counted on and the languid shoulders of the former cadet player will definitely carry these responsibilities.
So, how much will these experiences count as regards Awoniyi’s Merseyside expectations?
Is Klopp finally convinced it’s the time for his ward to be fully “home” at the red half of Merseyside?
Will a move away from Liverpool with a few clubs wishing to have him permanently abruptly end his Liverpool adventure?
Is first-team football firmly guaranteed him given the Salahs, Manes and the Firminos in the Liverpool attack are still striking fears in Premier League defenders and goalkeepers?
Save for injury suffered as the last season hit the home stretch at Bundesliga side Union Berlin, Awoniyi, no doubt, would be a top contender for a Kop start on his return following his impressive form that saw him score five goals and make seven.
Confidence and bragging rights have not deserted him, the work permit also in his bag is also enough for him to announce himself and get Liverpool to consign the idea of another loan move to the archives.
In truth, he has got the ability as shown in all his on loan clubs save at Belgian side Gent, where his goals dried up amidst injury worries that dogged that particular sojourn.
Klopp’s Liverpool suffered a brutal lull in form last season, including an unprecedented consecutive seven-game home loss, that diminished whatever was left of their Premier League title defence push and left them rallying for a hard-fought third place finish and a Champions League spot.
Klopp, is still in charge, after the Kop’s last season’s “dark” times and would take no prisoners in playing for pride and title conquest.
Adding Awoniyi in his highly revered attacking line that also produced last season’s second top scorer, Salah, Klopp could be up to something with this ward that missed his well-deserved Super Eagles’ chance through injury.
The “special” things he sees in having Awoniyi back will be left to be seen when the new season begins in less than a month’s time.
Awoniyi is a delight to watch no doubt – good pace, impressive technical ability, great eye for goal and above all, he’s an astute team player and all these attributes will definitely come into play in his quest for first-team football.
Champions League football will also be music to Awoniyi’s ears as he has presented with a great chance for the first time to play in Europe’s apex club competition and he will not toy with it.
He has only managed four appearances – four starts in Europe, in the other of Europe’s club competition – the UEFA Europa Cup in the colours of Gent in 2018 and has yet to register a goal.
Isn’t this a golden opportunity for this former junior international to make Liverpool truly his home?
No doubt, that’s every player’s wish, but achieving it with a big team like Liverpool isn’t a stroll in one of the Merseyside parks.
Sure, this adventure will come lots of sweat, Liverpool are not lacking the fire power as Sallah, Firmino and Sane have demonstrated over the years.
Interestingly, Awoniyi is pursuing a good piece of history, as appearing in the Liverpool colours in the Premier League will make him the first Nigerian home-grown talent to do so.
Victor Moses, Sheyi Ojo, who is pursued by Super Eagles, Stan Collymore are the notable names with Nigerian blood gushing in their veins to have worn the highly reverred red colours of Liverpool FC.
But before that record is achieved, welcome to Merseyside, Awoniyi!