He is just 22-year-old, but Taiwo Awoniyi is already at crossroads in his career, and the Nigerian striker can’t afford to make a wrong decision this summer
Awoniyi was part of the Golden Eaglets squad that won the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Following the tournament, It was believed that Awoniyi and some other members of the squad including Kelechi Iheanacho are the future of Nigerian football.
While Iheanacho moved to Manchester City in 2014, Awoniyi had to wait for two years before he could get his move to Europe.
The 22-year-old represented Nigeria at the 2015 FIFA World Cup, and shortly after was signed by Liverpool. However, unlike Iheanacho, Awoniyi could not feature for the Reds due to work permit issues.
As a result, he was sent out on loan to FSV Frankfurt This would turn out to be Awoniyi’s story at Liverpool as he has been sent out on loan every season. Awoniyi has had stints with NEC Nijmegen, Royal Excel Mouscron, Gent and currently he’s with FSV Mainz 05.
Although the loan move is to help him get the work permit needed, it’s unlikely Awoniyi gets the chance to play for Jurgen Klopp side.
The former Flying Eagles striker has failed to impress in the different clubs he’s been loaned out to, and it’s the same story this season.
Now at Mainz in Germany, the 22-year-old has managed just six appearances this season, and there were even reports that Liverpool were planning to cut the loan deal short.
But why has Awoniyi struggled so far since he moved to Europe? Speaking in an interview with Omasports recently, Awoniyi claims he’s given everything, but the only time he’s enjoyed playing was when he was at Royal Excel Mouscron.
I don’t know why I’m not playing. It all depends on the trainer. As a player, I give my best. I give it my all always. I’ve been giving my best through thick and thin, and it’s been like this for the six months I’ve been here. I’ve always given my best.
“Same happened at Genk, but Mouscron gave me everything. I can’t lie about it getting into my head, I get disturbed, and it’s nothing easy.
Is he right? In my chat with veteran sports journalist, Calvin Emeka Onwuka, He said a couple of things come into play for a player in Awoniyi’s situation.
“Managers are all-powerful at football clubs, especially in their dealings with fringe players.” Another factor is a player’s agent.
“A hardworking agent can be a great help. The most important – albeit an intangible – factor is Luck/Favour/Grace. That is why I don’t judge.”
Managers are all powerful at football clubs especially in their dealings with fringe players.
Another factor is a player's agent. A hardworking agent can be a great help. The most important – albeit an intangible – factor is Luck/Favour/Grace. That is why I don't judge.
— Calvin 'Emeka Onwuka (@CalvinEmeka) May 6, 2020
But while Awoniyi may have a point, it’s important for him also to take a look at himself because he’s played in three of the best leagues that aid the development of young players like him.
Osimhen also experienced the same challenge during his time in Germany, but the 21-year-old who is now one of the most wanted strikers in Europe reignited his career when he moved to Belgium.
Awoniyi needs to take a leaf out of Osimhen’s book and buckle down by working harder. When asked about why Awoniyi has struggled at the club, Mainz sporting director, Rouven Schroder said the Nigerian did not take his chance.
“Unfortunately, he did not use his chances effectively. Now he is, of course, giving everything, given the competition he has ahead of him at the moment.”
So what’s the way forward for the Nigerian?
There’s only one solution which is for him to leave Liverpool permanently. It’s obvious these loan deals are not working, and he needs a club where he can settle in permanently.
Changing clubs every season is not the best situation for him as it affects his confidence. He needs a move to a club where he can stay for two to three seasons, and it won’t be at Liverpool.
Even if he’s able to get the required work permit, there’s no way he could break into Jurgen Klopp’s team with Mane, Salah and Firmino proving to be an unbreakable bond.
A fresh start in a league like France or Switzerland could be what he needs, or else he risks becoming one of the players whose career ended even before it started.