Henry Onyekuru: Still Dreaming Premier League
When he banged in 30 goals in 60 games for KAS Eupen in Belgium, Merseyside giants Everton did not hesitate to sign Henry Onyekuru in 2017. The Nigeria international’s dream of playing in the Premier League however faded as quickly as it came as work permit in England proved a stumbling block. He was therefore loaned back to Belgian club Anderlecht and later Galatasaray before a permanent move to Monaco in the summer of 2019. With West Ham United in the race to sign the AFCON bronze medallist, he may afterall achieve his long time ambition to play in the Premier League
Nigeria International Henry Onyekuru’s dream of playing in the Premier League may after all come to fruition after West Ham United joined the race to sign Monaco attacker this winter transfer.
Having failed to get a chance to impress in the Premier League with Everton, Onyekuru could be keen to return to England if West Ham come calling.
“The first dream is to play in the Premier League, it may not have worked out at Everton but I have no regrets about it,” Onyekuru told BBC Africa Sport.
“When I received offers from top clubs in England, I knew back then that I needed a work permit to play.
“That it didn’t happen then has nothing to do with my talent but red tape that’s beyond my control.”
Onyekuru revealed he was keen on a move to his boyhood club Arsenal, but aware he faced a familiar huddle – work permit issues- he opted to fulfil his Champions League ambition instead at Anderlecht through Everton.
“I really wanted to go to Arsenal because I spoke to some people there as I was very young then,” he explained.
“It was obvious that I was not going to play without a UK work permit. So I went to Everton and played in the Champions League through a loan move to Anderlecht.
“It was important for me to get more playing time and experience that I had hoped would help boost my chances of earning the permit.
“I can’t say I regretted this because I got to play against Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League, this doesn’t happen to everyone.”
The winger’s form at Anderlecht led to a call up to the Nigeria team in 2017 by Coach Gernot Rohr and he looked set to be part of the Super Eagles team at the 2018 World Cup.
Playing in Russia would have boosted his chances of securing his permit to work in the United Kingdom and play for Everton.
However, the knee injury he suffered while on loan at Anderlecht meant he was unable to prove his fitness in time for the World Cup and ultimately meant he did not make the required appearances for a UK work permit.
“You can’t question certain things in life, playing at the World Cup was not meant to be,” he insisted.
“If that had happened, maybe I could’ve ended up playing in the Premier League but we will never know.”
Onyekuru offers electric pace and can play on the wings and as a number 9, and West Ham manager David Moyes could do with such a quality finisher.
However, the Nigerian is struggling for game time with the Ligue 1 side, featuring just four times this term, and he can move for a €1.5 million loan fee, subject to a €5.5m permanent deal.
The Hammers are looking to strengthen their attack this month following the departure of Ivory Coast international striker Sebastien Haller, and landing Onyekuru could end up being a bargain.
Onyekuru’s name may ring a bell to fans as Everton signed him in 2017, having smashed 30 goals in 60 games for KAS Eupen in Belgium.
However, he didn’t have a work permit to play in the Premier League, so he was loaned out to Anderlecht and Galatasaray, before being sold to Monaco in 2020.
With 12 Nigeria caps to his name Onyekuru may be in a better position to finally play in the Premier League.
Onyekuru was seen as a huge talent, but seems to have lost his way a little. The 23-year-old hit 16 goals on loan at Galatasaray in the 2018-19 season, but scored just once in 12 games for them last term.
For Monaco, Onyekuru has only played eight games and hasn’t featured at all since September, meaning he’s hardly sharp and ready to go for West Ham.
Desperate to establish himself at club and international level, Onyekuru is aware of what he needs to do.
“I think it was sudden and I had no idea about the move,” he added.
“It was all decided between both clubs in two days and I had to rush down to Monaco to complete the transfer.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get much playing time. I think there’s more to it.
“I am not someone to make excuses about life or football, but I think the manager has a different plan and I am probably not in that plan.
“I’ll definitely be leaving in January for football reasons, so I can return to the form I need to be in,” Onyekuru said.