Five weeks ago I made a long, gruelling journey to Eupen in West Belgium via Cologne and Aachen by planes, trains and automobiles (literally). When I finally reached Eupen, the heavens opened and after a mile walk I reached the Kehrweg Stadion. A nice and clean stadium where me and my friend were waiting to interview Diawandou Diagne on how the season went. After an hour wait til I had the chance to interview, the Eupen players and staff were walking in and out of doors, eating lunch and recovering from a match the night before against Mouscron.
Within that time a minibus arrived right outside the front entrance to the stadium. Six players came out and were congregating around a fan asking for autographs, when out of nowhere, one player separated himself from the group and made his way over to me, shook my hand, put his arm around me and said ‘Hello. How are you?’. That player was a raw 19 year old who had been banging in goals all season. That boy was Henry Onyekuru. A gentleman. A young man where he had no ego and was simply polite, welcoming and just warm. After him, every player on that minibus welcomed themselves before getting changed.
I was stunned at how polite he was. Not because I had an opinion beforehand, because I didn’t, but he was so friendly that a potential superstar was setting an example for his teammates. After that a Belgian journalist asked what I was doing before I pointed him towards the direction of Onyekuru, who he was meeting that day, before I followed upstairs to interview Senegal international Diagne. Even during my interview I probed and prodded possible destinations regarding the young Nigerian, as I had heard Sevilla were the main protagonists.
On the way back to Cologne, me and my photographer scoffed over possible destinations and transfer fees for him, mentioning Arsenal at around £5 million, and I was close, coming back to strong rumours of the Gunners offering £6.8 million. Then West Ham and Anderlecht were circling for the in demand striker, graduating from the Aspire Academy just 2 seasons ago. However, news has broken that Everton have put up the cash at around £7 million, which is a steal! Think about it…22 league goals in your first top flight season for a team hoping to simply finish fifteenth. Still a teenager who is now a full international, where £7 million to a Premier League club is peanuts. Everton have nothing to lose!
Missing out on overall top scorer in the Pro League, to his new teammate at Anderlecht Lukasz Teodorczyk, due to scoring less goals away, Anderlecht have had a masterstroke. Forty four goals between the top two, with a big man-little man combination upfront and will be playing Champions League football next season, which is only beneficial to Everton. Ronald Koeman has done magnificently at what some may consider a gamble, but which is really no risk at all. At a time where Nathan Ake, who does have Premier League experience, but has been bought for £20 million is unbelievable on the face of it.
Not just because I write about the Belgian Pro League and that I’ve met Henry Onyekuru, I really hope he succeeds. A humble young man who has worked hard for a team like Eupen whose history consists of lower league football, but who are now owned by the Aspire Academy, maybe more is still to come from this small club in the shadow of Standard Liege, and more young fledgling prospects will continue to come out of this club. For Everton, I believe he may well succeed, and performing for Anderlecht regularly is a start! All the best Henry!