Joint leading scorer in Belgium at the halfway mark with nine league goals, Henry Onyekuru is sparking another scramble among Europe’s big clubs for his services, and inclusion Nigeria’s FIFA World Cup squad.
Plying his trade for unheralded KAS Eupen last season, the 20-year-old finished the Belgian First Division A campaign with a joint league-high 12 goals, only to miss out on the highest goalscorer honour by virtue of assists.
A summer of activity followed, in which he was courted by top clubs, including Arsenal and PSG. The youngster actually had a medical at Paris Saint–Germain before changing his mind at the last minute and choosing to pin his colours to Everton.
But without the International experience required to qualify for a work permit in England, he was loaned back to Belgium, this time to champions Anderlecht.
A source close to the player told KweséESPN that that decision has proven to be the best for the player
“For him the most important thing was not just to play regularly but also to play for a club with a mentality to win every game,” the unnamed source said.
“Anderlecht are the biggest club in Belgium, and every time they play they want to win. That is good for him as a player.”
Very good indeed… He has played 18 of Anderlecht’s 19 matches in the league so far – making 13 starts – and played both Cup games, scoring one goal.
More importantly, he has also added Champions League experience, playing in all six the club’s UEFA Champions League games, making four starts.
Anderlecht currently lie third on the log, trailing leaders Club Brugge by 13 points, but Onyekuru’s consistency over two seasons is catching interest from England, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Manchester United, one of the clubs which lost out to Everton in the race for his signature in the summer, have been joined by the likes of Barcelona and Juventus in the scramble for the forward.
The one blip in his so far near flawless season has been what his manager describes as a tendency to ‘let himself down.
It is a flaw that is easily correctable, though. Outside of that, his speed, skill and movement and when drifting in from the left side has been impeccable over the last 18 months.
Despite this toolbox full of varying skills, including consistent goalscoring, Onyekuru has found it hard to break into the Nigeria first team. And righty so.
On the wide forwards role, he faces competition with Victor Moses on one side and the duo of Alex Iwobi and Gernot Rohr’s favourite, Moses Simon, on the other. And then there is Ahmed Musa waiting in the wings.
In the central role, for which only one starting spot is available, he is behind Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho and Anthony Nwakaeme in the pecking order.
But his form and constant minutes with Anderlecht mean that at least two of those should be concerned about their tickets to Russia.
Musa would be one of those unless he gets a move away from Leicester in January and rediscovers himself. Iheanacho will probably make the team, but also needs minutes, while Nwakaeme needs to start hitting the back of the net with some regularity.
Rohr has a difficult task ahead of him, and Onyekuru is making it that much harder for the German. In a good way.