Henry Onyekuru has finally returned to top form for Galatasaray over the last month, scoring five goals in the space of his last two matches to reaffirm his quality at the Super Lig giants.
The Nigeria international had started the season—his first on loan in Turkey—in some style, with two goals in his first three outings, including the winner in a 1-0 home victory over Goztepe on August 19.
However, after scoring in Gala’s next match—a 6-0 demolition of Alanyaspor—the forward failed to net in nine games for his club, struggling to make his mark during a tricky run for the domestic giants.
A double against Kayserispor in November ended his drought, but Onyekuru appeared to struggle for consistency, and failed to strike again in the next six games.
At the turn of the year, he hit a purple patch, slamming two past Sivasspor in a 4-2 victory before Christmas, and then following that up with a hat-trick—the first of his career—in the 6-0 thumping of Ankaragucu as the Turkish top flight resumed on January 19.
Having been rested—apart from a six-minute cameo—in the narrow triumph over Boluspor in the Turkish Cup in midweek, expect Onyekuru to return to the starting XI—and a prominent position—for the trip to Goztepe on Saturday.
However, like almost everything that has occurred in Onyekuru’s career to date—don’t expect the coming weeks or months with Gala to be straightforward.
Things have rarely been simple for the wideman in recent years.
After bursting onto the scene with KAS Eupen, he was snapped up by Premier League heavyweights Everton, but was immediately loaned back to the Jupiler League as he sought a work permit.
A temporary switch to Anderlecht represented both a challenge for the youngster, and the opportunity for him to test himself at a domestic giant and in continental competition.
However, despite a respectable goalscoring return during the latter part of 2017—even though he was occasionally used in a deeper role for the Belgian giants—Onyekuru’s time at Anderlecht ultimately ended in disappointment.
His 2017-18 season was ended in December—exactly a year before his two-goal showing against Sivasspor—with medial collateral ligament knee damage.
He wouldn’t return to action, and ultimately ended up missing out on the 2018 World Cup.
Iheanacho 20, Iwobi 21, Onyekuru 19, Ndidi 20, Simon 21, Aina 20...If I was a true Nigerian I'd be getting pretty excited right about now!— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) May 23, 2017
Despite being, in terms of profile and status, a ideal fit for Gernot Rohr’s new Super Eagles generation, Onyekuru’s frustrating international career to date was summed up by sitting out the biggest showcase of them all.
May Rohr regret overlooking any of these potential @NGSuperEagles for his preliminary @FIFAWorldCup squad?— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) May 17, 2018
Would've loved to have seen Onyekuru in there, and Ajayi can count himself unlucky.
Shame Lookman wasn't approached as a potential wildcard...https://t.co/GLP6GH5mKQ pic.twitter.com/mccYqbKtaP
How the West Africans could have done with him as well, as they laboured—Ahmed Musa aside—in front of goal.
From there, Onyekuru moved to Galatasaray, like Anderlecht, a domestic giant who will dominate the fast majority of their matches, but in this case, one of the most demanding and fervent fanbases in the European game.
Even though Onyekuru’s recent form in Turkey will surely have piqued the interest of Marco Silva and his staff back at Everton, the wideman appears to be looking at a future away from Merseyside.
According to Turkish source Star, the 21-year-old—who is relishing playing back on his favoured left flank—is now keen to remain in Istanbul beyond the season’s end.
While legendary coach Fatih Terim appears keen to nab the forward on a permanent basis—even amidst reported interest from elsewhere across Europe—it remains to be seen whether the €10 million asking price would prove too much for Aslanlar.
Should Everton receive a firm offer, they may well be tempted to cash in on a player who’s never featured for them.
However, it could prove to be a critical error.
Despite his injury problems, and the tendency of various coaches to assess him in different positions, Onyekuru’s quality has shone through.
Crucially, the forward continues to demonstrate his ability to find the net—a precious commodity that ought not be underestimated.
If he can continue to weigh in with goals from midfield—and from wide areas—then expect the wonderkid’s transfer fee to climb between now and the season’s end.
Yet, work permit-permitting, Silva ought to be considering a way of fitting the wideman into his Everton team next season, rather than entertaining reported interest from the likes of Valencia or Borussia Dortmund.
It was telling that, while Onyekuru was firing home five goals in two games in Turkey, the Toffees were falling to consecutive defeats by Brighton and Hove Albion and Leicester City—both matches in which they failed to find the net.
Silva has got nine goals apiece from midfielders Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson, but how he would love to have an attacker capable of netting consistently—and of leading the line if required.
Certainly, with Theo Walcott and Sigurdsson both 29, Silva must be turning one eye towards the future without two of his chief attacking threats.
Be it on the left flank, or in a more advanced role, Onyekuru could ensure that Everton not only manage the transition, but also improve their potency upfront.
Admittedly, he must surely improve his physical presence over the coming six months if he’s to thrive in England, but Everton must think carefully before cashing in on the technique, the pace and, critically, the goalscoring class of this talented youngster.