The Nigerian forward had the world at his feet after helping the Golden Eaglets to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013
Imperial Soccer Academy boss Atiba Bankole has offered insights into how Liverpool managed to beat other interested clubs to the signing of Taiwo Awoniyi after the then-teenager powered Nigeria to a fourth world title more than seven years ago.
Awoniyi was groomed at the Imperial Soccer Academy run by former Super Eagles midfielder Seyi Olofinjana and Atiba Bankole.
And it was at the football school that his talent was spotted, and the youngster was called up to represent his country at the U17 World Cup.
Awoniyi scored four crucial goals as a strong team that also had Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfried Ndidi, and Isaac Success defeated all-comers to lift the world title.
Awoniyi’s performance caught the attention of clubs across Europe, with his handlers keen on him joining a relatively smaller club where he could continue his development.
‘Initially, we didn’t want him going to a big club,’ Bankole recalled in an interview with First Time Finish.
🔔 EXCLUSIVE 🔔
Sewing his own boots 👟
World Champion 🥇
Inside details of Liverpool move 📩
Never giving up ⚽️
Liverpool plan and future ⚪️🔴
This is the story of Taiwo Awoniyi. Told by his academy coach and advisor, Atiba Bankole.
— First Time Finish (@firsttimefinish) January 12, 2021
‘Because we know as a young player at a big club, you’re going to be judged against other established players in the team, and that makes things harder. So, we were looking at smaller clubs for him in Belgium and Scandinavia.’
English Premier League club Liverpool arrived with a developmental plan and offer that were so impressive they could not be turned down.
‘Then Liverpool came,’ Bankole added. ‘And we knew that was the best club for him.
‘Liverpool scouted him even prior to the U17 World Cup. When we went to speak to them, they gave us a presentation of how they followed him, what their plans were, and you could not resist that.
‘One of the things they showed us was how Taiwo was going to fit into the Liverpool team in about five years.
‘They showed us a pattern of what they were hoping his development was going to look like and how they would assimilate him into the first team. It all made sense.
‘They wanted exactly what we wanted, for Taiwo to develop and to be the best he can be, and so the Liverpool offer was the best for him and his career.’
On 31 August 2015, Awoniyi eventually signed for the Reds for a fee of around £400,000. It has not gone according to plan, though, with Awoniyi yet to make his Liverpool debut years after signing the dotted lines.
The former Flying Eagles star has spent all of his time on loan at different clubs including, Frankfurt, Gent, and Mainz.
Awoniyi is currently at Union Berlin and has recorded five goals and two assists in his last eight matches for the capital club.