Awoniyi arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2015 for a relatively nominal fee of £400,000. Sadly for the Nigerian, he never had the chance to pull on the famous red shirt in anger, instead spending his entire time as a Liverpool player out on loan at various European clubs.
Those loans came at FSV Frankfurt, NEC Nijmegen, Royal Excel Mouscron, Gent, Mainz and Union Berlin. Having grown frustrated with his continued exile from Merseyside, Awoniyi opted to join Berlin permanently last summer.
That departure only came after Awoniyi had been positively compared to Erling Haaland, who is widely seen as one of Europe’s top strikers. German football expert Constanin Eckner believed that Awoniyi shared similar traits to the Norwegian.
“I think he’s found his level there, he’s what you would call a utility player, so he is perfect for the role they’ve given him. He works quite well for the Union Berlin system, which is also kind of direct, a lot of vertical passes, he makes a number of runs behind the backline,” he told Blood Red.
“In a way he reminds me of Erling Haaland with the runs he makes behind the line. Of course, he’s nowhere near the level of Erling Haaland, but just his style is somewhat similar, and he’s a good, not great poacher inside the box, he’s a decent finisher at least.”
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Work permit issues were what mainly scuppered Awoniyi’s time at Liverpool, though he was able to link up with the Reds for pre-season last summer. And it gave him a chance to work properly under Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp for the first time, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed.
“He said ‘What took you so long?!’ To be honest, I have always been thinking about working with him. Even when I was at FSV Frankfurt  and he had not signed for Liverpool yet, my team-mates there would always say that they wanted to play under him,” Awoniyi told GOAL in December.
“I was wondering why, really curious as to what he would be like. Then, when he signed for Liverpool, I was thinking ‘Wow! Maybe one day I will have my opportunity to meet him.’ And the first time I met him, I realised everything they said about him was true; the smile, the passion, everything he brings to the game.”
But Union came calling last summer to bring him back to the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei on a permanent basis. It was a move that Klopp encouraged him to make, despite the little time he spent working with the striker.
“He told me, it’s a good step for me. The most important thing is once you realise that a club wants you as a player and as a man, it’s a good move. It was a statement I learned from. The most important thing is you are welcome where you are going,” Awoniyi said.
After joining the Bundesliga side for £6.5million, he began his permanent time at the club in style. The Nigerian scored in three successive matches before scoring in Berlin’s derby day win over Hertha.
He hit the back of the net 20 times in all competitions, earning a place as Union’s record Bundesliga goalscorer in the process. And as he helped Die Eisernen to qualification for the Europa League, Awoniyi insisted that he had no regrets about departing Liverpool.
“Life is a journey. Everyone has different steps to take and routes to follow. Our destinies are different. I signed for Liverpool at a period in my young career as a footballer; when I did not understand how it works with work permit issues, but at the end we are still here talking about it,” he told Tribal Football last November.
“It shows that I did not make a bad decision to sign for Liverpool. I have always said that Liverpool is one of the best things that happened to me as a footballer. They gave me the platform to achieve my dream and with them I have no regret at all. I do not see not being able to play a game in the Premier League as a regret because in life, with time, everything is still possible.”
Having starred in the German capital, Awoniyi now looks set to fulfil his dream and return to the Premier League. Forest are ready to spend a club-record £17.5m on the striker as they seek to boost their options ahead of their first season back in the top-flight.
Awoniyi will now get the chance to show Liverpool what they missed out on amid those work permit issues. And Forest will be hoping he is indeed able to live up to his comparison to Haaland as they bid to stay up after their promotion.