The Nigeria international was on the payroll of the Anfield giants for several years but never played a game for the first team
Nottingham Forest striker Taiwo Awoniyi has highlighted the impact of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp in helping him fulfill a lifelong dream of playing in the English Premier League.
After helping Nigeria win the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup and the 2015 Africa U23 Cup of Nations, Awoniyi arrived in Liverpool with high hopes of following in the footsteps of legendary compatriots like Austin Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu.
But playing for Liverpool became a pipe dream as failure to secure a work permit in England meant Awoniyi could not feature for the Reds.
He was subsequently shipped out on loan to clubs in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
After six long years, Awoniyi’s work permit was eventually approved in 2021 following a decent spell on loan at Bundesliga side Union Berlin.
A return to Anfield – and by extension, the Premier League – to fight for a spot was among Awoniyi’s options that summer.
But he decided to seal a permanent deal back to Berlin after discussing it with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who thought it was the perfect move.
The German tactician has since been proved right.
Awoniyi netted 15 Bundesliga goals last season, enough to convince newly promoted Nottingham Forest to smash their transfer record and bring the 25-year-old back to England.
The Super Eagles striker’s return to the Premier League could not have gone any better as he scored the winner in a 1-0 triumph over West Ham as Forest secured their first top-flight win in 23 years.
In an interview with The Telegraph (subscription required), Awoniyi detailed the valuable experience he gained at Liverpool, as well as the conversation with Klopp that changed everything.
“It was frustrating because every summer I’d be in pre-season training at Liverpool waiting to see how it goes with the permit,” he said. “I hadn’t played for my national team or in any of Europe’s top five leagues.
“In the end, I’d have to go out on loan, but in life I have been in more difficult situations than that. I’ve always believed I would play in the Premier League. It has always been my biggest target as a football player.
“Even when I was in Liverpool’s second team, I learned so much. The way they set up training, and all the fantastic players around me, made it a learning process. Before I left, he (Klopp) told me that Union Berlin were pushing everything to sign me permanently (after a successful loan spell in 2020-21).
“He said, ‘That is the key for a player, the moment a team wants to sign you so much that means you belong there.’ That was the last discussion we had and he was right.”
Awoniyi will look to help Nottingham Forest claim another positive result when the Reds trade tackles with Alex Iwobi’s Everton on Saturday.