Young, Energetic and multidimensional, Henry Onyekuru’s journey to greatness is an interesting one following his early beginnings in Nigeria and growing to becoming one of Europe’s highly rated finishers.
Onyekuru is among the new crop of Super Eagles players that will be making their debut on the continental stage.
Everton loanee Henry Chukwuemeka Onyekuru has come a long way from playing on the streets to representing the Super Eagles. Onyekuru was born on June 5 1997 in Onitsha, Anambra State in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
The 22-year-old has been included in Gernot Rohr’s squad to the upcoming 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and is touted to bring a fresh spark to the Super Eagles attack at the competition.
Onyekuru started his football journey in the streets of Lagos before he was discovered in 2010 and shipped to the Aspire Football Academy, an independent Qatari government-funded agency. While his talents were obvious, Onyekuru’s skills were developed in the youth system of the Aspire Academy between 2010 till 2015.
Onyekuru did not play local league football in Nigeria before departing the shores of the country but he was one of the highly-rated talents at the Aspire Academy.
Due to his rapid development, there were reports that the Qatari Football Federation were making moves trying to convince top talented foreign-born players at the Aspire Academy to switch allegiances as they continue to their preparation to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Onyekuru continued to impress at the Aspire Academy and only narrowly missed out on the Golden Eaglets team that went on to win the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Qatar.
After five years in Qatar, Onyekuru had his first shot at professional football when he joined K.A.S. Eupen of Belgium in 2015. The youngster in his first season of professional football helped Eupen gain promotion to the Belgian First Division A, scoring nine goals in a total of 16 appearances and was hotly tipped improve the following season.
Still basking on his impressive debut season in Europe, Onyekuru became even better during the 2016/17 season as he contributed 22 goals in 38 games in Eupen’s campaign in the first division.
While French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain dropped out of the bidding race in order to sign Kylian Mbappe, Onyekuru looked destined to play in the English Premier League. He always stated that Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry, was his idol and he seemed to fancy a move to the Emirates Stadium, however, Everton manager at the time, Ronald Koeman, convinced him as he sealed a permanent move to Goodison Park for a reported fee worth £7 million.
Onyekuru, however, did not make the squad for that season due to work permit issues and was sent back on loan to Belgium, this time with giants Anderlecht.
The youngster earned his first national team cap in a friendly encounter win against Togo in June 2017 and while Onyekuru was excelling in his loan deal at Anderlecht, he was rewarded with a call-up to the Super Eagles again in their final World Cup qualification encounter.
His world Cup dream however suffered a setback when he suffered a serious knee ligament injury and while he avoided surgery, he could not recover in time to be part of the team to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Not short of suitors, Onyekuru chose to continue his career in Turkey with Galatasaray on loan from Everton.
Onyekuru is expected to compete with Odion Ighalo and stand-in captain Ahmed Musa for the attacking spots. He mostly came off the bench during the Super Eagles qualification campaign but notwithstanding, he possesses immense trickery and pace and can play on either flank or in the central position.
Compared to former Super Eagles forward Victor Moses, Onyekuru poses a more potent goal threat as he has shown over the course of his career in Europe. Onyekuru will be participating in his first international competition with Nigeria and has already been tipped to be among one of the top talents to watch out for.