Paul Onuachu: Dictating the Pace in Belgian Pro League
His performance this season has been electrifying, finding the back of the net with relative ease. With 22 goals so far to his name, Paul Onuachu is ahead of the next contender by six goals and just a goal behind the highest goal scorer in the whole of Europe. With his performance so far, Genk may find it difficult to hold on to their jewel as French and English clubs are already hovering
With the next 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier matches fast approaching, Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr will be hoping that Racing Genk striker, Paul Onuachu replicates his club performances for the national team.
Onuachu continued his excellent form in the Belgian First Division A by scoring a brace in his team’s 3-2 win over Zulte-Waregem at the Luminus Arena on Wednesday evening.
In doing so, the Nigerian international boosted his average to 0.96 goals per game this season after 23 appearances.
Onuachu broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, slotting into an empty net after the ball was laid on a plate for him by Daniel Munoz; then doubled the advantage when he headed home a corner kick in the 52nd minute.
The former FC Midtjylland star has now scored 22 goals this term and needs one more goal to equal his personal best return for goals in a single season set back in the 2016-17 campaign with the Danish champions.
Onuachu’s goals have not gone unnoticed by clubs in the big five European Leagues as he has been linked with possible moves to the French Ligue 1 and English Premier League in the summer transfer window.
The 26-year-old is one goal shy of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski as the most prolific player in the whole of Europe.
Genk’s 12th league win of the season takes them nine points behind table-toppers Club Brugge who have a game in hand.
The lanky centre-forward has been delivering sparkling performances for John van den Brom’s men this season and continued his form at Luminus Arena.
Onuachu was handed his 21st league start of the campaign, pairing Junya Ito in attack and utilised the opportunity to increase his tally.
The game started with both sides aiming to outwit each other but there was no goal until some moments before the half time break when the Super Eagles forward found the back of the net with a well-taken strike.
The Luminus Arena outfit continued their domination after the restart and doubled their lead in the 52nd minute when Onuachu fired his effort past goalkeeper Louis Bostyn after receiving an assist from Bryan Heynen.
The victory propelled the Blue and White to second spot on the league table behind leaders Club Brugge after gathering 42 points from 24 games.
Onuachu featured for the duration of the game and has now scored 22 league goals, including five braces and provided two assists in 22 matches.
The centre-forward joined the Belgian club from Danish side Midtjylland in the summer of 2019 and has been turning heads with his performances.
He will hope to continue his terrific form for Genk when they take on Mechelen in their next league game today.
The forward has struggled to make an impact for the Nigeria national team and will hope to replicate his club performances for the Super Eagles in their next 2022 AFCON qualifiers.
Onuachu remains the highest scoring Nigerian player in Europe this season with 19 goals after 19 league matches, and he leads the goalscorers chart in the First Division A.
The 26-year-old was playing amateur football barely six years ago and almost did not even make it to the professional ranks. While turning out as an offensive midfielder for Young Stars Academy in Lagos, Nigeria, Onuachu’s growth spurt meant he could not quite function effectively in that playmaking role and his future as a footballer looked in doubt. His father, growing impatient, decided it would be better for his younger son to leave football and either continue his education, or become a trader at the popular Alaba electronics market in Lagos.
That was when fortune played its part. First, his coaches at Young Stars decided to convert him to a striker, where his emerging physical attributes could be more of an asset.
“It was tough for him as he was growing taller. We had options to either move him to defensive midfield, central defence or attack,” said Young Stars coach Osahon Emokpae to ESPN FC.
Then he was spotted by FC Ebedei’s Churchill Oliseh, a man whose track record of spotting and promoting talent includes the likes of Obafemi Martins, Stephen Makinwa and current Nigeria midfielder Sylvester Igboun.
“As soon as I saw him, I knew he was special,” said Oliseh to ESPN FC. “And as I always do with my players, we immediately put him on scholarship at Golden Gate College, Sagamu while he played and lived at the academy.”
While at school, Onuachu played for Ebedei, including a friendly match against Nigeria’s under 23 team in which he was head and shoulders above everyone else, and not just physically.
“Some of the team officials came to me and said I should tell him to show more respect to his senior international colleagues and not embarrass them too much,” Oliseh said.
Within months of leaving school, where he passed his O Levels with seven credits, and finishing as third-highest scorer in the Nigerian second division, Onuachu was off to Denmark to join Ebedei’s parent club, Midjytlland.
Oliseh insists that the 26 year-old Onuachu, who was a member of his school’s 4x100m relay team, has all the tools. “For a player with his height, he has good dribbling ability. People of his height only rely mostly on their aerial strength, but he can play, both in the air and on the ground. And he has speed,” said Oliseh.
Onuachu moved to Danish club FC Midtjylland in 2012, on a scholarship, from their affiliate team in Nigeria, FC Ebedei. He was a prolific scorer for their youth team, and made his first-team debut in the Cup later that year, before making his league debut in December 2012. In June 2013 he signed a new three-year contract with the club, before extending it for further three-years in August 2015. In early 2015 he was loaned to Vejle BK, before returning to FC Midtjylland ahead of the 2015–16 season.
Onuachu however said he would love to play for Arsenal. “The way they play is just the kind of football I like to see and so I would like to play for Arsenal at one point…”