Taiwo Awoniyi Dreams Anfield Return

0

In spite of having been loaned six times- Frankfurt, NEC Nijmegen, Mouscron twice, KAA Gent and now Mainz, Taiwo Adeniyi still has the conviction that a return to his parent club, Liverpool is not far away after scoring his first goal for Mainz on the return of the Bundesliga last weekend

Taiwo Awoniyi scored his first goal for Mainz last weekend when the Bundesliga returned, and despite his lack of game time is hoping Liverpool are impressed with his progress.

The Nigerian signed a new long-term contract with the Reds in 2018 but despite his continued association with the club he is yet to feature in any capacity.

An unfortunate injury ruled him out of a planned stint of pre-season training with the first team last summer, before he embarked on a season-long loan spell with Mainz—his fifth such deal since joining in 2015.

Though he made the switch on the advice of Jurgen Klopp, Awoniyi has struggled for minutes at the Opel Arena, but scored his first goal for the club in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Koln.

That came off the bench, and his 34-minute outing was the third-longest of his seven appearances for Mainz so far, but he believes he has improved on loan nonetheless.

And speaking to Liverpool’s official website, the striker outlined his hopes that he could catch the eye of Klopp and his backroom staff ahead of a return to Merseyside at the end of the season.

“Even without playing for a while, coming in on Sunday just really shows I’ve really improved since coming to Germany,” he claimed.

“That’s the goal with being on loan.

“Even when you are not playing, you just have to be ready and keep on improving yourself and wait for your time as well.

“I don’t think I’m the same player as I was in the last few years. I personally have seen improvement in my game and I believe most Liverpool coaches have seen that as well.

“I just have to be prepared to improve myself and work on my weak points as well. When I’m back at LFC, I hope they will see that.”

There is a clear caveat when it comes to any objectives Awoniyi sets out at Anfield, in that he is yet to qualify for a UK work permit.

As much as his spell with Mainz was designed to develop him as a player, the hope will have also been that he would play enough games—and garner enough international recognition—to grant eligibility.

As it stands, he finds himself in a similar position to Allan Rodrigues, the Brazilian midfielder who joined from Internacional in the same summer of 2015.

Allan spent five seasons out on loan, with SJK, Sint-Truiden, Hertha Berlin, Apollon Limassol, Eintracht Frankfurt and finally Fluminense, only tallying more than 20 appearances with the latter.

Eventually, with his contract due to expire, Liverpool cut their losses and agreed on a permanent £3.2 million deal with Atletico Mineiro in January.

This could be the way Awoniyi is heading, but to remain optimistic, perhaps Klopp’s focus on Mainz will see him show enough to prompt a prolonged effort with his Reds career.

It’s been a long time coming, but Awoniyi finally scored his first goal in one of Europe’s major leagues.

The Nigerian U-23 international was a second-half substitute for Mainz and he helped to spark their comeback into action, with the club fighting back from two goals down to rescue a crucial point away at FC Köln.

Awoniyi’s strike was simple enough, finishing off an impressive team move by racing onto a cross at the near post to find a way past Timo Horn, but it was a statement from the 22-year-old ahead of his summer return to Liverpool.

Even when he was brought off the bench against Köln, Awoniyi predominantly played out wide on the right-wing, although he took it upon himself to move into a central position in the build-up to his first Mainz goal – exactly one year after his last goal, which came during a loan spell at Royal Excel Mouscron.

Awoniyi certainly didn’t have enough time to leave a lasting impact on the match against Köln, but it was a small insight into what life could be like for the 22-year-old next season, when he returns to finally make an impact at his parent club Liverpool.

There’s little point in trying to work out exactly how Awoniyi could impact Jürgen Klopp’s starting XI –Roberto Firmino might have a thing or two to say about that – but his cameo appearance against Köln showed promise of what he could bring as Liverpool’s new impact substitute, with expensive new arrivals at Anfield looking unlikely.

Xherdan Shaqiri should be on his way out of Anfield at the end of the season, while Divoc Origi might also fancy more regular first-team football elsewhere, but Awoniyi’s arrival would make things an awful lot easier for Liverpool to adapt.

The Nigerian probably has a slight edge over Origi as far as athleticism is concerned, something that has been important for Liverpool’s current super-sub both in the Premier League and Champions League over the last few seasons.

Like Origi, Awoniyi has shown he’s just as happy when it comes to running in behind defences as he is holding the ball up with his back to goal, able to go toe to toe with Köln’s Sebastiaan Bornauw and Noah Katterbach from a physical standpoint.

Things will need to improve even more if Awoniyi wants to be able to cope physically in the Premier League, but that’s something which will only come if he gets enough exposure to English defences under Klopp next season.

Productivity has never been an issue for Awoniyi. He was directly involved in 14 goals in 16 games at Royal Excel Mouscron, and although that won’t directly transfer over to the Premier League, Liverpool fans should be confident their new back-up striker will be just as prolific as Origi.

Players moving to the Premier League for the first time from abroad always need time to get up to speed, even more so in a system like Klopp’s, and although many will be guessing if he’ll sink or swim, Awoniyi has all the attributes to be a success as (at the very least) a squad player at Anfield.

Meanwhile, Awoniyi has said Klopp’s impact at Liverpool was similar to what he is seeing at Mainz 05.

Awoniyi joined the Bundesliga outfit on a season-long loan last summer after finding it difficult to break into Klopp’s team at Anfield.

Despite his distance from Liverpool, the Nigerian youth international disclosed the influence of the Reds’ manager at Mainz, where he spent 18 years as a player and a coach.

“He’s more than a legend here. Everyone is so grateful for all he achieved for the club,” Awoniyi told the Liverpool website.

“The love they have for him at the club is unexplainable.

“When I came to the club, I was seeing a lot of stuff that I’ve seen in Liverpool as well. I believe it’s just more of the same impact and the same process.

“I believe they are still living on the legacy.”

Upon his return to football on Sunday after the Coronavirus lockdown in Germany, the 22-year-old forward broke his Bundesliga duck on his seventh appearance as the O-Fivers grabbed a 2-2 draw against Koln.

The move to Mainz 05 is Awoniyi’s sixth loan spell away since he signed for Liverpool in 2015 and he revealed regular playing time makes him forget his worries.

“I would say when I’m playing football I forget a lot of problems,” he continued.

“As a boy coming from Africa, even sometimes when you have nothing to kick, once you have the ball, you forget about most of your worries and you just keep on kicking. I think that was what happened on Sunday.

“Our focus was on getting the goals and equalising, which is what happened in the game.”

Awoniyi believes he has developed his game in Achim Beierlorzer’s side further improvement could earn him a place in Klopp’s squad.

“Coming here is just to make myself better. Even without playing for a while, coming in on Sunday just really shows I’ve really improved since coming to Germany. That’s the goal with being on loan,” he added. “Even when you are not playing, you just have to be ready and keep on improving yourself and wait for your time as well.

“I don’t think I’m the same player as I was in the last few years. I personally have seen improvement in my game and I believe most Liverpool coaches have seen that as well.

“I just have to be prepared to improve myself and work on my weak points as well. When I’m back at LFC, I hope they will see that.”

Awoniyi will be hoping to help Mainz 05 return to winning ways when they host RB Leipzig for their next Bundesliga fixture on Sunday.

They are 15th on the league table with 27 points from 26 games, four points above the relegation zone.