Liverpool's masterplan to get Taiwo Awoniyi into top-level football in England
The Nigerian striker finished the season as the club’s most potent forward, just behind the Fab three, and the Reds have a plan for him
With Liverpool keen to remain at the top, only players that can sustain their drive are needed and Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi would have to reach that level if he’s ever going to turn out in the Reds’ colour.
In a low-key manner, the Anfield giants added Fabinho – after years of starring for Monaco on the domestic and continental scene – to their ranks, few days after their demoralising loss to Real Madrid in the Uefa Champions League final.
The highly-rated defensive midfielder cum right-back joins a setup that had already been bolstered by Naby Keita’s addition, after the Guinea international agreed to a deal in last summer from RB Leipzig.
A deal in the region of £60 million is in the works to lure Lyon captain Nabil Fekir to England, and Loris Karius’ blunders in Kiev on Saturday evening has left the club no choice than to look for a top-end goalie – AS Roma’s Alisson, amongst others, is being eyed.
This, however, signals the intention of Liverpool to want to continue in the higher echelons of English, and European football after the unprecedented success – headlined by another marquee signing in Mohamed Salah – achieved in the just-concluded campaign.
This plan has, however, informed how the club are expected to manage Awoniyi – whom they still consider a player with a future in their ranks – to the level required.
The 2013 U17 World Cup star was signed by the Reds from Imperial Soccer Academy in 2015. Unable to secure a work permit, he was shipped on loan to German second division outfit, FSV Frankfurt and then NEC Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
The spells ended in disappointments as both teams suffered relegations, however, there has been renewed hopes after his progress at Royal Excel Mouscron last season.
The Nigeria U23 international joined the Belgian outfit in a season-long loan deal – his third spell away from Anfield, and flourished.
The 20-year-old scored 10 times – including two goals to help Mouscron qualify for Europa League play-off spot – and laid on seven others in 31 games across all competitions, amid several inspiring, literally imposing displays such as that of a seven-goal thriller where his side narrowly lost 4-3 to Standard Liege.
The feat saw him end as Liverpool’s highest goalscorer after Jurgen Klopp’s trusted trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Salah.
However, despite the intention to add more firepower to complement, and ease, the over-reliance on the Fab three, the German tactician is not looking within his ranks.
Injury-ravaged Daniel Sturridge is expected to be ushered out, Dominic Solanke might have to spend a season on loan, with Rangers interested. But Liverpool will be unlikely to let Solanke go until August at the earliest which is in contrast to Steven Gerrard’s plan of having players in early.
However, a move away from Merseyside looks likeliest for the Anglo-Nigerian, while returning [from Wolfsburg] Divock Origi might well be given another chance to prove his worth.
Awoniyi seems to be far off, but the Reds have laid a plan to bring him up to the required level at Anfield, Goal understands.
On his current contract, the striker has two years left and will sign a new improved deal before being sent on another loan spell.
The Reds want the Nigerian striker to have a taste of playing at the high level regularly – and in Europe – so another loan deal, this time, to the biggest club in Belgium, Anderlecht might suffice; as this would also help his quest for a UK work permit.
After finishing third this season, the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium outfit will play in the 2018-19 Europa League but still remain favourites to reclaim the league diadem next season, after success in 2016-17.
Goal also understands that despite having a not-so-immediate plan for the youngster, Liverpool have successfully obtained a US visa for the player, meaning he can, if selected, join the team’s pre-season tour of America.
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So, the plan is to prepare the player for a Liverpool gearing to return to European elites circle, get him a work permit, and also get him up to speed with what playing in a Red shirt, under Jurgen Klopp, feels like.
Additional reporting from Goal’s Liverpool correspondent Neil Jones.