After leaving English Premier League side Liverpool in summer 2021, Taiwo Awoniyi is feeling the love at Union Berlin and has made a flying start to the 2020/21 campaign.
The Nigerian striker left Anfield without making a first-team appearance, with his six years at the club largely spent out on loan.
One goal in 13 league appearances followed but FSV suffered relegation to the third tier that year, and Awoniyi spent the subsequent three seasons farmed out to NEC Nijmegen in the Netherlands and both Mouscron and Gent in Belgium.
Watch: The rise of Taiwo Awoniyi
And it is in the German capital that Awoniyi has finally settled.
“After lots of loan moves in previous years, I want to finally come and have a home,” he told Union’s official website after making his move permanent ahead of the 2021/22 campaign.
“I owe so much to Union, so it makes me happy and proud to be back here. It’s fantastic to continue on the great path with the club.
“I'll give everything to quickly pick up where I was before my injury. I’m really happy I can achieve it this year and I’m back again in Berlin.”
The 24-year-old was immediately good to his word, scoring four times in his first four competitive appearances as a full-time member of the Die Eisernen roster.
He was on target in Union’s 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 1 and doubled down on his perfect start to the league season by hitting the equaliser as his Berlin outfit shared the spoils with Hoffenheim on Matchday 2.
Awoniyi was also at the double in Union’s 4-0 first leg win at Kuopion Palloseura in the UEFA Europa Conference League and laid on Max Kruse’s goal in the same game.
“For me, it’s what I’ve waited for, for many years,” he beamed following his strike against Leverkusen. “I’m really happy.”
And so he should be, having now taken his tally for the season to 14 goals from 27 competitive outings.
Watch: "I've waited many years for this moment!" - Taiwo Awoniyi
A happy Awoniyi is clearly a major benefit for Union going forward.
His presence in the side has allowed Germany international Kruse to provide craft from slightly deeper than last season, with Awoniyi delivering a cutting edge at the sharp end of the Union attack - as highlighted by the fact that Awoniyi’s nine Bundesliga goals this term have come on average every four shots. And almost half of his 41 efforts have been on target.
It means that if the 6'1" striker is presented with an opportunity to shoot, opposition goalkeepers are generally forced into action.
Union’s second-fastest player this season is bringing a lot to the table, just as managing director of football Oliver Ruhnert had hoped.
“We got to know Taiwo last season, and we became sure of his qualities,” said Ruhnert after the acquisition of Awoniyi. “His robustness, his dedication and his unconditional willingness to learn and develop were the deciding factors for us to give everything to make this transfer happen.
His fine start to 2021/22 also saw Awoniyi take the natural next step and earn a first full cap for his country, having previously lifted the U17 FIFA World Cup and U20 African Cup of Nations with the Super Eagles.
That latest career highlight came in October 2021 with his debut in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Central African Republic. It was a dream come true that he'd strived for.
“On the playing side, I challenge myself to never stop learning, continue to work hard and strive for my dreams to come true,” he told World Soccer in March. “It remains everyone’s dream to play for his country. Only the dead can stop hoping and dreaming, so while I breathe, I will continue to hope for the best.”
The best could yet come as he joins the three-time continental champions at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Berlin represents a breath of fresh air for Awoniyi who is, in turn, breathing life into the Union attack, steering Die Eisernen to a lofty seventh place at the mid-point of the Bundesliga season.
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