His dream of playing in the English Premier League with Everton may not have come to past because of his inability to secure a work permit, however, Henry Onyekuru landed what may be the most shocking transfer of the summer after Bundesliga giants, Bayern Munich signed the Nigerian striker. This may indeed be the breakthrough his career has been longing for
With Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery having played their last game for Bayern Munich after both players had held sway in the Bavarian right and left wings for almost a decade, the Bundesliga champions had to replace the leaving veterans with high profile wingers, with many looking at the direction of German international-Leroy Sane to join from English champions-Manchester City.
However, it was little known but promising winger Henry Onyekuru who will be making the first call from Turkish giants, Galatasaray.
After having a good season on loan with Galatasaray where he has scored 16 goals and registered six assists in 3,346 minutes, Bayern Munich have agreed on a deal with English Premier League club Everton in principle for Onyekuru.
After joining Anderlecht on a season-long loan from Everton owing to his failure to secure a work permit in England after he was snapped up from Eupen following his impressive 2016-17 campaign, Onyekuru made an instant impact, scoring 10 goals across all competitions. But in December of 2017, he suffered a setback after picking a knee injury.
However, he returned earlier than expected but failed to get playing time to prove his fitness.
Following the disappointment, the forward left the side in the summer, despite Anderlecht having the option to extend the deal for another season.
“I can confirm that Anderlecht had a deal with Everton about a second season on a loan basis, but the final decision was with me, but now it’s certain – I will not stay,” an obviously depressed Onyekuru had vowed.
True to type, he moved to Turkish giants, Galatasaray and he put up a convincing performance.
Everton could not resist his signature after his exploits in the Belgian League for KAS Eupen, during which he hit the back of the net 24 times. Surprisingly, immediately after putting pen on paper for the Toffees, he was loaned to Anderlecht of Belgium where he excelled.
Onyekuru was impressive for Anderlecht at the beginning of last season culminating in Catalan giants-Barcelona sending scouts to watch his matches. Aside from Barcelona, Manchester United, Fiorentina, Ajax, PSV, Southampton and Stoke City were also believed to have sent their scouts to see the player in action in the Belgian league.
Onyekuru said then that he was flattered by stories linking him with top European clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United, but wants to remain focused.
The striker, who spoke after netting the winner for Anderlecht in their Jupiler league game, said he would continue to work hard and improve on his game.
“There is no real secret, I have a strong faith in God and he has blessed me to be able to do what I love and I’m just focused on improving myself, working hard and staying dedicated. It’s a blessing to be recognised by these clubs and of course, it’s flattering but I take everything one step at a time. I will focus on what is in front of me and for the next few months,” Onyekuru said then.
In front of goal, Onyekuru is an improviser. He possesses good movement, especially when he has to spin in behind a full-back; he is often up and away before they even know it. When through, he can finish in a number of ways; though, like most speedsters, he seems to enjoy going past the goalkeeper.
There is a lot to admire about him, but he is still a teenager, so there are a lot of areas where he can improve. That is only natural. His aptitudes for the defensive side of the game, as well as his decision-making, are still undeveloped.
He is unashamedly direct – he will pick the ball up, accelerate quickly, and go towards goal. He also has shades of Arjen Robben – he plays mostly on the left, so he can cut in and shoot on his stronger right foot.
Surprisingly for one blessed with such pace, Onyekuru likes to come deep for the ball, rather than playing on the shoulder of defenders.
He is small of stature – 5ft 9in – but uses this quick change of direction effectively, bamboozling defenders, using his change of pace to get past his man rather than a barrage of stepovers.
Perhaps, the biggest weakness in Onyekuru’s game is a streak of single-mindedness. It can manifest as overconfidence or as selfishness, but too often, he wants to go alone. He will often get the better of his marker, and opt for a shot from an angle rather than lay in a teammate in a better position centrally.
Interestingly, Onyekuru has played against Bayern Munich before — back in 2017, Anderlecht faced Bayern in the group stages, and Onyekuru came on as a sub in both instances, though he did not score or assist in Europe that season.
Onyekuru is a winger who can score goals and play out wide, but he has no real pedigree outside of lesser leagues. The last time Bayern made a transfer like this was when the club bought Douglas Costa from Shakhtar Donetsk back in 2015, and the outcome was decidedly mixed.
Let’s see how this plays out. If Onyekuru comes cheap, it won’t be an issue, but hopefully, the bosses don’t think you can skimp out when trying to replace the likes of Robben or Ribery. On the other hand, maybe he really is a diamond in the rough, after all, Joshua Kimmich was playing in the second division until Bayern signed him, Kingsley Coman was once rotting on the bench at Juventus and Serge Gnabry had been deemed “not good enough” for West Brom.
It, however, remains to be seen if Onyekuru could leverage on his new Bayern romance to take his game to a new height.
Onyekuru began his football career with the Aspire Academy in 2010, and graduated in 2015 joining their partner club, KAS Eupen and made his debut for Eupen in September of the same year in a 2-2 tie against Dessel Sport in the Belgian Second Division. He helped the team get promotion to the Belgium First Division A in his debut season.
After a successful season in the Belgium first division, Onyekuru finished as one of the top scorers in the league, attracting the attention of various big teams in Europe. He finished the 2016/2017 season as joint top-scorer with 22 goals, but the trophy was handed to his rival as he scored more away goals than Onyekuru.
He made his senior debut for Nigeria in a 3-0 friendly win over Togo last year’s July.