Sports

Taiwo Awoniyi: from drifting around Europe to setting the Premier League alight 

It was evident early on from Taiwo Awoniyi’s time at the Imperial Soccer Academy in Lagos that the forward was destined for the very top. Awoniyi’s strength and pace set him apart and was ultimately the reason why Liverpool signed him as an 18-year-old in 2015. Of course, without a work permit in place owing to Awoniyi not having represented Nigeria at senior level, the forward was unable to play for the Reds straight away.

Six years without a home 

This wasn’t cause for concern however given that at the time, it was seen as a matter of when and not if the work permit would arrive. Subsequently, Awoniyi was immediately loaned out to FSV Frankfurt in Germany.

No one was prepared for the fact that it would be the first of seven loans to teams in Europe as a senior cap didn’t materialize until October 2021.

By that time, Liverpool had reluctantly accepted a fee from Union Berlin for the striker who had finally found a home after living a nomadic existence around Europe. While the overall success of Awoniyi’s loans varied, the Nigerian’s permanent move to Germany brought out the best in him as he scored 20 goals and chipped in with five assists during his 52 Bundesliga games for Union Berlin. 

Awoniyi was so prolific in Germany that Premier League new boys Nottingham Forest broke their then-club record transfer fee in the summer of 2022 after agreeing to a $22 million deal with Union Berlin for the Nigerian. Awoniyi would score on his debut at the City Ground.

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Awoniyi saves Forest from the chop 

Irrespective of this impressive start, it wasn’t a move without risk as Forest were tipped to make an immediate return to the Championship. This sense of jeopardy would have hit home in January 2023 when Awoniyi was ruled out of action for three months with a severe groin injury. At this stage, Forest were odds-on to go down and all Awoniyi could do was watch the nightmare unfold from the treatment table. 

Finally, Awoniyi was passed fit at the start of April and returned to Forest’s lineup with the club needing a miracle to stave off relegation. It just so happened that Awoniyi was in the business of performing miracles as the Nigerian netted six times in Forest’s last four fixtures to single-handedly help the club preserve its Premier League status at the eleventh hour. 

The attacker has carried his late-season blitz in front of goal into the new campaign and already scored three times in just seven Premier League games as of the 6th of October. Incredibly, it seems like the threat of relegation is a distant memory for Forest who have been priced at 6/1 in the latest sports betting odds to go down. Awoniyi’s lethal presence in the final third has undoubtedly convinced the bookmakers that the direction of travel for Forest is up and not down. 

Nigeria’s Super Eagle is ready to take off 

While Forest may be on the up, the same is certainly true for Awoniyi whose stock would have risen to an all-time high. Indeed, having set the Premier League alight and in possession of the previously elusive work permit, the Nigerian could well find the biggest clubs in England looking to sign him once more. 

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