Having developed at West Ham and Bolton, speedy English attacker Oladapo Afolayan has found his feet with St. Pauli in Bundesliga 2. bundesliga.com outlines all you need to know on the exciting Englishman...
Stats correct as of 30 November 2023
Age: 26 (born 11 September 1997)
Club: St. Pauli
Position: Forward (centre-forward or winger)
'Dapo' Afolayan, as he is known, is a Londoner by birth and spent his footballing education at some of the top addresses in the English capital. Chelsea were the first from the age of nine, but London was no longer his stomping ground by the age of 16 as his family moved to Canada. Afolayan's talent was such that he soon signed for MLS side Toronto FC, playing for their third team before he returned to the UK two years later.
Watch: Afolayan's first goal for St. Pauli
Solihull Moors of the English non-leagues were the first senior outfit Afolayan would represent, and 15 goals at the club over a year aroused the interest of another big name from London. West Ham United swooped to sign the attacker, then aged 20, in February 2018.
While the riches of talent at the Premier League side would make a breakthrough difficult at West Ham, Afolayan did get a chance to play for them thanks to his persistence. After loan spells in the English lower leagues at Oldham Athletic and Mansfield Town, he played and scored for West Ham in an FA Cup match against Doncaster Rovers in January 2021.
A move to Bolton Wanderers, then in the fourth tier of English football, the following month proved the spark to finally ignite his career. After helping Bolton gain promotion within months, Afolayan scored 14 goals in 2021/22 in League One - as he became the club's top scorer and Player of the Year.
Watch: Afolayan scores as St. Pauli win 3-2 in Rostock
Cult Hamburg club St. Pauli would be Afolayan's next destination in January 2023. His relentless attacking appetite quickly earned him a place in the fans' favour with three goals following in the second half of the 2022/23 Bundesliga 2 season, and a strike in the 3-2 win at Hansa Rostock in Matchday 14 was his second goal of 2023/24 - helping to send his side clear at the top of the second tier table as they eye a return to the top flight for the first time since 2011.
Plays a bit like: Jay-Jay Okocha
Afolayan may not quite be at the mesmerising level of the legendary former Eintracht Frankfurt trickster, but his form for Bolton gave their fans plenty of cheer in the lower leagues and rekindled fond memories of the Nigerian's spell at their club. Afolayan was only too pleased to receive comparisons - with Nigerian descent making him eligible to represent the Super Eagles as well as England - and once performed Okocha's signature goal celebration after scoring a goal for Bolton against AFC Wimbledon.
Did you know?
Education was always important in Afolayan's development as a youth player, and it even had a major influence on his path in football. He was offered a place at Yale University in the US, but turned it down in favour of the chance to study civil engineering at Loughborough University in the UK. He joined the university's football team, but was only invited to play for their third team initially after a mass trial. He soon progressed to the first team and completed his degree while playing for Solihull Moors.
What they're saying
"Dapo brings flexibility into our attack. He dribbles well, often tries to get one-on-one, has really good passing, he can cross well and has very good timing. He is very sturdy and uses his body well." - Fabian Hürzeler, St. Pauli coach, after signing Afolayan in January 2023
"He played a big part in our climb back up the league placings and created a lot of special memories. He is an ambitious young man and we wish him well in the next stage of that career in European football." - Ian Evatt, Bolton coach after Afolayan's departure was confirmed
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