After a series of loan moves, Taiwo Awoniyi has found a home - and the back of the net - since joining Union Berlin on a permanent deal. - © ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images
After a series of loan moves, Taiwo Awoniyi has found a home - and the back of the net - since joining Union Berlin on a permanent deal. - © ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images

Taiwo Awoniyi: the one-time Liverpool nomad finding his home in Berlin

After leaving English Premier League side Liverpool this summer, 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.

Having signed for Jürgen Klopp’s side as an 18-year-old in August 2015, Awoniyi was immediately sent on loan to Bundesliga 2 outfit FSV Frankfurt.

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.

He returned to Germany with a stint at Mainz in 2019/20 before scoring five times in 21 appearances last term for Union.

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 has been good to his word so far, 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 Conference League and laid on Max Kruse’s goal in the same game.

The only game that he has failed to score was the DFB Cup first round win over Türkgücü München and even then, he provided the assist - again for Kruse - for the only goal of that game.

It takes Awoniyi’s goal involvement to six from four and following his strike against Leverkusen, the striker made no effort to hide his delight at finding the back of the net.

“For me, it’s what I’ve waited for, for many years,” he beamed. “I’m really happy.”

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 two Bundesliga goals have come from just four shots in two games, all of which have been on target.

It means that if the 6'1" striker is presented with an opportunity to shoot, opposition goalkeepers are always forced into action and, thus far, he will beat them every other time.

Union’s 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.

Should he continue his fine start to 2021/22, Awoniyi’s natural next step would be to 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.

It would be another career highlight seemingly years in the making and it’s certainly Awoniyi’s ambition to earn a first full Nigeria cap.

“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.”

For now, Berlin represents a breath of fresh air for Awoniyi who is, in turn, breathing life into the Union attack.