Taiwo Awoniyi was just heading towards the television cameras when the fans in the An der Alten Försterei stadium began to shout his name. A smile crossed his face, which soon grew into a broad grin. The 1. FC Union Berlin striker not only looked happy at that moment, he was happy too. As happy as maybe never before in his career. Awoniyi contributed the first goal to his Berlin team's 2-0 win against VfL Wolfsburg, and Sheraldo Becker scored the 2-0. The 24-year-old Awoniyi now has six goals this season. Only Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski, two of the best center strikers in the world, and Patrik Schick achieved more.

There was a time, and it wasn't too long ago, when Awoniyi was regularly told that he could also belong to this elite group. He was considered a jewel, which is why Liverpool FC signed him. He had just turned 18 at the time. What pressure for a young man who is preparing to leave his home country Nigeria in order to realize the prophecies of a successful career in a foreign country on a foreign continent.

The expectations were high, but Awoniyi had done a lot for it.

World champion with the Nigerian U17 in 2013 - he contributed four goals to winning the title.

At home they compared him to Rashidi Yekini, the most successful goalscorer in Nigerian national team history, because of his beefy, powerful stature.

As soon as he arrived in Liverpool, Awoniyi felt the hardship of the business.

Loan to Frankfurt, to the FSV.

Relegation candidate in the second German division.

There he met the coach Falko Götz.

"Taiwo was incredibly inquisitive, he went into every duel and was incredibly committed in every training session," says Götz.

Many loans to many countries

Most of the other Frankfurters were not as committed as the new striker, Götz was dismissed after a few games, and it became more difficult for Awoniyi.

The team was relegated, Götz says today: “If everyone had had Taiwan's attitude that wouldn't have happened.” Awoniyi moved on to Nijmegen.

Next loan, next country.

From Nijmegen it went to Mouscron.

His next club was KAA Gent in Belgium.

Then again Mouscron, then back to Germany, to Mainz 05. In his early twenties, Awoniyi had played in so many clubs and under so many coaches that in principle it lasted for a complete career.

Somewhere between Frankfurt, Nijmegen, Mouscron and Mainz it dawned on him that under these conditions it would be difficult with the world's best.

In late summer 2020 it was awarded again, this time to Union.

At least not a new country, thought Awoniyi, but something was different in Berlin, he sensed it immediately.

About coach Urs Fischer he said last spring: “It makes you feel important.” A feeling that Awoniyi hadn't felt for a long time.

He and Union, that fit.

That summer Union did something the club had never done before.

He spent a lot of money by his standards to buy a player.

For around 6.5 million euros, the Berlin Awoniyi triggered at Liverpool FC.

Awoniyi has since thanked with goals, he is the central, accurate striker that Union had been looking for for so long.

Above all, the interaction with Max Kruse works extremely well.

Awoniyi generally praises the good team spirit.

And this Thursday (6.45 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Europa Conference League and on TVNow) Union, fifth in the Bundesliga, is now in the European Cup at Feyenoord Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Taiwo Awoniyi knows his way around there very well.

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