Not another Mateta
New Zerofiver striker Taiwo Awoniyi from Liverpool FC is fast, robust and able to play deep
On Thursday, Taiwo Awoniyi stood on the pitch with his new teammates from 1. FSV Mainz 05 after passing his medical and receiving international clearance from the British authorities. The Bundesliga side has signed the Nigerian striker on a year-long loan from Liverpool FC. “He’s a striker who will be able to help us,” said Rouven Schröder. Head coach Sandro Schwarz will wait to make a decision on whether or not the new signing will feature for Mainz in Saturday’s DFB-Pokal match against 1. FC Kaiserslautern.
Awoniyi will turn 22 years old next week, and is born in 1997, the same year as Jean-Philippe Mateta. Mateta is expected to miss out for at least three months after undergoing an operation to treat a meniscus injury he suffered during pre-season. His injury forced the club to make another signing, after new arrival Dong-Won Ji (who was also meant to strengthen the Mainz offense) is also set to be out for several months with a knee injury. Without this duo, the Mainz frontline would have been made up of only Robin Quaison, Karim Onisiwo and youth academy striker, Jonathan Burkhardt.
“We said right from the start that if we were to sign another striker, he would not be another Mateta,” said Schröder. A striker like the Frenchman – who scored 14 goals in his debut season – is in high demand at clubs across Europe, and is something that the club could not afford. Sandro Schwarz was in need of a striker that could be quickly integrated into the squad, had a certain level of experience and was past the stage of being a youth team member. All these factors made such a loan deal appealing to Schröder. “JP and Ji will return in the foreseeable future. In that regard, it was clear that we did not want to sign an additional striker long-term,” said the sporting director.
14 goals, three assists
The central striker, who stands 1,83 m tall, has been with Liverpool since 2015, but has yet to make an appearance for Mainz legend Jürgen Klopp’s side. Liverpool have loaned out the Nigerian U23 international several times over the last few years. Awoniyi joined FSV Frankfurt when he was 17 and made 13 appearances in the second division. Afterwards, he joined NEC Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Last year, the central striker played half a season at Royal Excel Mouscron and KAA Gent in Belgium’s Pro League, where he scored 14 goals and made three assists across 38 appearances.
“That’s a good record. The Belgium league is an aggressive and robust one,” said Schröder, “he fought to establish himself there.” The 21-year-old completed all of pre-season in Liverpool with Klopp. It was his qualities as a striker that impressed the Mainz scouts. “It’s important that we don’t compare him to Mateta. Taiwo is a striker who is able to play deep and has a certain power and robustness,” said Schröder. “He feels at home in the penalty area, where he can find his way into the gaps.” Additionally, the new signing is fast and able to finish well, even off headers.