Taiwo Awoniyi: Nigerian admits work permit could derail Liverpool dream

By Oluwashina OkelejiFootball Writer, Nigeria
Nigeria under-23 striker Taiwo Awoniyi
Taiwo Awoniyi has not played a senior game for Liverpool or Nigeria so far

Nigeria under-23 striker Taiwo Awoniyi has admitted that his inability to get a UK work permit could derail his hopes of playing for Liverpool.

The 21-year-old joined Liverpool on a long-term deal in August 2015 from Nigeria's Imperial Academy but is yet to play a senior game for The Reds.

He is on a fifth loan spell outside of England with Belgian side Mouscron.

"It saddens my heart that it's been difficult to get a work permit for the past four years," he told BBC Sport.

"At the end of the season we have to go back to Liverpool to discuss.

"Everyone knows the importance of the work permit and how it works, and that you'd need to play for your national team.

"If you don't get a chance with your national team then it becomes difficult to get it.

"Personally, I chose Liverpool because I would love to play in the English Premier League for Liverpool.

"If God says it will happen then it will, but if not then I can only go on with my life and career."

Awoniyi's first loan stint was at German second-tier club FSV Frankfurt in the 2015/16 campaign then Dutch side NEC Nijmegen the following season in order to attract interest from national selectors and gain a work permit.

For non-EU players to be granted a work permit, they must demonstrate they are an international player of "the highest calibre."

This means they must have played in 75% of a Fifa top-50 ranked national team's matches over the previous two years.

Awoniyi, who helped his country win the Under-17 World Cup in 2013, is currently part of Nigeria's under-23 side vying for a ticket to the 2020 Olympics football event in Tokyo.

After representing the country at all levels, the striker who also spent last season on loan at Mouscron before returning to the Belgian side in the New Year having struggled to make an impact at rivals Gent during the first half of the campaign, is hoping for a chance at the senior level.

"Nigeria is blessed with so many talented players and whoever finds himself playing for the country should count himself privileged," he added.

"Everyone has his own time and moment. If I get a chance I will be grateful for that but it is not something you have to force.

"You can only wait for your time and if it comes you have to make good use of it."

He played at the 2015 Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand, netting twice and then helped Nigeria win the 2015 African Under-23 Championship in Senegal.

However he missed out on playing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

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