Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi was signed for Liverpool after graduating from the Imperial Academy in his homeland, believed to have joined for around £400k.
Viewed with the potential to become a first-rate forward at the highest level, Awoniyi was shipped out to Bundesliga 2 side FSV Frankfurt immediately upon his Anfield acquisition, and so began an interminable journey jumping from ship to ship on loan.
Indeed, the 26-year-old remarkably completed seven loan stints while on Liverpool’s books, with the final spell as a wandering nomad, at Union Berlin, resulting in his permanent transfer for around £6m, having never made an appearance for his parent club.
He’d impressed in Germany, scoring five goals and three assists from just 16 starts for Union Berlin during the 2020/21 campaign and following that up the next year with a 20-goal term to grab the attention of Nottingham Forest, who then made their move.
How is Awoniyi performing now?
Last summer, Awoniyi was signed for newly-promoted Forest for around £17.5m and scored 11 times from just 19 starting appearances across all competitions, praised by his manager Steve Cooper for his “bravery” and “commitment”.
Utilised sporadically for much of the first half of the season, Awoniyi really grew into his own at the business end and played an integral role at Forest secured survival on their return to the topflight.
Indeed, the sharpshooter scored six times across his outfit’s final four matches – including the solitary goal in a win over Arsenal – and served as the focal point as a late purple patch did enough to carry the club away from danger and record a 16th-place finish, four points above relegated Leicester City.
After scoring against Liverpool in a 1-0 win that compounded Jurgen Klopp’s side’s woeful start to the season, the one-time Borussia Dortmund boss heralded Awoniyi’s “sensational” development since leaving Merseyside.
How does Awoniyi compare to Mo Salah?
Awoniyi is a prolific goalscorer and is proving under Tricky Trees boss Cooper that he is every bit the forward Liverpool foresaw as they swooped to acquire his services in his formative years.
But he is not of the calibre of Liverpool’s pre-eminent forward under Klopp’s tutelage in Mohamed Salah, who has been one of the most blistering, devastating attackers of the modern age since completing a £34m transfer to Merseyside from Serie A team Roma in 2017.
The superlative inside forward, Salah has redefined the levels of striking prowess attainable for wide forwards, breaking the all-time Premier League record for goals scored (32) in a single season — holding the record for nearly five years before a certain machine named Erling Haaland waltzed onto English shores and scored 36 times in the league.
In fact, the Egyptian has plundered 188 goals and 81 assists from just 309 outings for Liverpool, described by Michael Owen as “one of the greatest of all time.”
This season, he has started off with a commendable posting of two goals and assists apiece from four matches, still the centrepiece of the offensive impetus despite Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad wafting the redolent aroma of their riches in his direction this summer.
Liverpool rejected a staggering £150m bid for their star man and dispelled notions of another, even bigger offer by maintaining their stance that the 31-year-old is simply untouchable.
A simply irreplaceable presence, off the back of a 30-goal season despite the Reds’ struggles last term and poised for more prolific success this time around.
And Awoniyi’s outperforming him in front of goal.
True enough, the 5 foot 10 talisman didn’t beat Salah’s numbers last year, but after a stunning start to the season with Nottingham Forest, clinching three goals and an assist from his first four matches of the Premier League term, he ranks among the very best forwards Europe has to offer.
Indeed, as per FBref, Awoniyi sits among the top four per cent of forwards across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals per 90, netting at an impressive rate of 0.76 per match.
Salah, comparatively, ranks among the top one per cent of attacking midfielders and wingers for goals per 90 but at a rate of 0.59 per game.
To further underscore how impressive Awoniyi has been in front of goal, Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe hits at 0.75 per game, while Harry Kane at 0.53.
Such stellar numbers illustrate in vibrant hue the profound impact the £50k-per-week gem has had on Forest’s exploits after returning to top-flight football last year.
He chalked up double digits last campaign and finished with aplomb, instrumental in the final phase in another illumination of his merit as a big-game player.
Liverpool’s attacking calibre is among the best European football has to offer, and while Awoniyi’s departure will not sting the endearing Anfield support too intensely, watching him blossom into a prolific goalscorer is a reminder of the talent that the club had in their grasp.
It’s an incisiveness that could have proved invaluable last season as Liverpool toiled, and he could find a role in Klopp’s squad at present too, wreaking havoc when called upon with a ferocious, steadfast threat in the final third.