Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho may be the breakout star of the Sky Blues’ season so far but Liverpool fans, at least, can console themselves with the fact that they have their own equivalent of the Nigerian prospect.
Iheanacho bagged a hat-trick in City’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup, continuing a run of goals in four consecutive cup appearances for Manuel Pellegrini’s team in the process.
It comes as part of a return that has seen the Nigerian bag eight goals from 16 appearances for the Sky Blues already this term.
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But Liverpool fans should not worry too much just yet, because, in Taiwo Awoniyi, they have a forward with the potential to match or even exceed Iheanacho’s efforts in the process.
Plenty of highly rated youngsters emerged from the Nigeria side that won the 2013 Under-17 World Cup – fellow forward Success Isaac is already impressing in La Liga with Granada – but few compared to Iheanacho and Awoniyi.
The pair bagged 10 goals between them in the tournament and though Iheanacho just shaded things with six of the 10, it was Awoniyi who had the habit of scoring in the biggest games for the Super Eagles.
It was his brace that sank a physically powerful Uruguay side in the quarter-finals while he also opened the scoring against a highly fancied Sweden team in the semis.
Operating primarily as an off-the-shoulder striker, Awoniyi’s high work rate, creativity and strength on and off the ball have seen the forward garner comparisons with Nigerian national team legend Rashidi Yekini.
First spotted by former Wolves midfielder Seyi Olofinjana, who recruited him to the Imperial Soccer Academy, Awoniyi moved to Liverpool in late August 2015 and was immediately loaned out to FSV Frankfurt due to work permit issues in the UK.
That move followed another impressive showing at youth level for Nigeria, with Awoniyi bagging another three goals during the Super Eagles’ march to the 2015 Under-20 African Championship, earning a place in the team of the tournament in the process.
Still only 18 and very much finding his feet in Germany, where he has yet to make an impact with his temporary Bundesliga.2 employers, Awoniyi has all the necessary attributes to thrive at Liverpool.
More importantly, in Jurgen Klopp he has a manager keen to nurture youth talent in-house rather than via a loan away from Anfield.
All of which means, come the start of the 2016/17 season, we could be seeing a lot more of Awoniyi.
Will he end up outstripping Iheanacho’s achievements though?
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