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Henry Onyekuru --

Everton completed the signing of Henry Onyekuru, an exciting striking prospect from KAS Eupen in Belgium, for an officially undisclosed fee, reported to be around £6.8m at the end of June, 2017.

The Blues were said to have beaten off competition from Arsenal, Paris St Germain and West Ham to land the 20-year-old who signed a 5-year contract to become the club's third signing of that summer following the acquisitions of Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen earlier in the month.

Onyekuru, who finished joint-top scorer in the Belgian league the previous season, would spend the 2017-18 season with champions Anderlecht, where he would wear the No 9 jersey.

"I feel very happy and delighted with this move to Everton," the player told SCORENigeria after he came through a medical at Finch Farm and finalised personal terms. "I am delighted because my first target of signing for a Premier League team has materialised.

"It wasn't an easy decision to make for me but, with the advise of top players and proper studying of the other offers, it is a great deal for me."

Onyekuru, who wore the name "Henry" on his jersey, was picked up by the Qatar-funded Aspire Zone Foundation to develop when he was 13 before moving him to Eupen, the club they purchased in 2010. His goals helped the club achieve promotion form the second division in his first season. To date, he is the most promising product of the Aspire academy and he almost secured a move to Celtic during the January transfer window but the Belgian club blocked the sale.

Onyekuru failed to qualify for a full UK work permit when he was signed. Any player who is over 16-years-old and not from the European Economic Area (EEA) requires a work permit to play for a British club. In 2015, the FA changed the work permit criteria making it more difficult for non-EEA players to sign for Premier League clubs unless they were “internationally established at the highest level”. Everton chose to loan him out for the 2017-18 season to continue his development in the Belgian league with Anderlecht where he got off to an impressive start, scoring 9 goals.

Despite this record, the Anderlecht manager seemed to have a dim view of him, defending his decision to move Henry from his preferred striker position to the wing by saying, “He was lost in that top position and did not know how to ask for the ball. That's why I sent him back to the flanks.” Then, in December 2017, right before he was injured, he told a press conference that Henry "always let himself down."

Henry suffered a serious knee injury playing against his old club Eupen, with initial fears that he would require surgery and miss the rest of the season. He returned to Finch Farm for treatment and scans ultimately showed that he would not need an operation but it created uncertainty over his future, both in terms of qualifying for the Nigerian World Cup squad, and gaining enough international appearances to justify a work permit that would allow him to play for Everton in the Premier League in 2018-19.

“I lived in Liverpool and it was a difficult time for me,” says Onyekuru. “I had to manage myself while I was injured. I felt so bad — I was by myself having to move around on crutches. The only thing I had to do every day was sleep and go for rehab while my family were still in Belgium.”

The injury had precipitated something of a tug of war between Everton, Anderlecht and Nigeria: “Anderlecht wanted me to have surgery but Everton said No and asked me to come back to England,” Onyekuru later told The Athletic in an exclusive interview. “I had a check and one of the specialists there said I could just go through rehab and would be fine in a couple of months.

“I went back to Belgium to play but the coach of Nigeria had to call Anderlecht to ask them to allow me to play even 15 minutes so they could confirm I was okay to play. The coach was a crazy guy. When we lost, it was our fault, and when we won, he said it was him. I was scoring goals but he’d say I’d been shit and stuff like that.”

Anderlecht, and coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck in particular, were angry that Onyekuru had taken the advice of Everton and returned to Merseyside for treatment. With his future beyond the season up in the air, the forward, who had scored 10 goals in all competitions for his temporary club, was relegated to a bit-part role upon his return.

“They were angry at that (going back to Everton and not having surgery) and also the fact my contract gave me the right to decide if I stayed,” says Onyekuru. “The new president was mad and was saying ‘who sorted this contract?’ They wanted me to stay one more year but I said no because of what they did stopping me going to the World Cup.

“The best chance for me to get a work permit was for me to go to the World Cup. The plan to go from Everton to Anderlecht was because I didn’t have the work permit. I remember Everton signed (Romelu) Lukaku and we spoke to the president at Anderlecht because they wanted me to go before leaving Belgium.

“I felt it was good for me as they were in the Champions League and I wanted to gain more experience and play against big clubs. It’s why Everton were pushing Anderlecht for me to play. It was a big disappointment and was like a bomb had hit me. It’s the biggest tournament in the world and everyone wants to be there.”

He had regained his fitness by late April 2018 but didn't make another start for Anderlecht for the remainder of the season. He was duly left out of Nigeria's team for Russia 2018, with some in his native Nigeria speculating that the Belgian club had withheld him from the team on purpose so that he would not be picked and could return to them for another loan the following season.

Anderlecht's hierarchy rejected the insinuation, with Vanhaezebrouck insisting it wasn't Anderlecht's fault that Henry would miss the World Cup. "Everyone sees that he is not ready to play – he is afraid of the duels – and then I cannot pick him to please him. By the way, Henry still has a lot to prove with the national team. He was not a fixed value before his injury either, hey?"

Although Anderlecht had successfully negotiated an agreement with Everton to take him for the 2018-19 season as well, the relationship had soured with the player and his representatives reportedly exploring other opportunities. Borussia Moenchengladbach were a mooted possibility before he eventually secured a move to Turkey with Galatasaray for the 2018-19 season after passing a medical in July 2018. Under the terms of the deal, Everton would receive a €800,000 loan fee while the player himself would get a salary of €1.2M.   .

Onyekuru did reasonably well at Galatasasry, scoring some notable goals in 35 games for the Turkish side and finishing  the season in some style as they edged local opponents Basaksehir to the Turkish Super Lig title in a winner-take-call game on the final day of the campaign. Onyekuru scored the winning goal in a dramatic showdown, his 17th goal in all competitions for Galatasaray that season.

It capped what had been a successful season for the 21-year-old, one which promised to enhance his chances of more regular action for Nigeria and, in turn, bring him closer to meeting eligibility requirements for a work permit to play in the English Premier League. He was included in Nigeria's squad for the Africa Cup of Nations in the summer of 2019 but was largely overlooked and ended up playing just a few minutes as the Super Eagles finished third in the competition.

With his prospects of securing a work permit to play for Everton remaining remote – he would have needed to appear in 75% of Nigeria's competitive fixtures over the preceding 2 years – the decision was taken by Marcel Brands to sell Onyekuru, with AS Monaco stepping in in August 2019 to acquire the striker for a reported fee of €13.5M, rising to €15M depending on appearances.

“I didn’t have the work permit and my head wasn’t there (at Everton) because I knew I wouldn’t get it,” Onyekuru recalls. “The Monaco move wasn’t planned. I was about to go back to Galatasaray after the Africa Cup of Nations but, all of a sudden, I received a call from the sporting director of Everton (Marcel Brands) saying they’d found a good club for me.

“They were in talks for me to go back to Turkey but then Everton said it’s not possible to go on loan twice. I knew they wanted me to go to Monaco. I had no choice but to go. I didn’t want to push or cause a crisis as I knew I would have to go back to Everton and train on my own without the team. It was not my decision to go to Monaco. I wanted to go back to Galatasaray.”

To say the switch to France did not turn out as hoped is an understatement. Shortly into his stint on the French Riviera, head coach Leonardo Jardim made tactical changes that impacted Onyekuru.  “The whole thing in Monaco didn’t go as planned. I had a few issues with Jardim,” he admits. “He explained to me after my second game there that he was changing the formation to two strikers and no wingers. My position, which is normally left wing, was not needed so he asked me to be calm and keep working. I worked for a couple of months without playing and he refused to say anything. We started having issues from there.”

By the January window, he had made just 4 appearances for the club and had a strained relationship with Jardim. The opportunity to get loaned back to Galatasaray came up and Onyekuru was happy to return but he contracted malaria on a trip back to Africa, which delayed his second debut in Turkey, where he would score only 1 goal before the Covid-19 shut-down in 2020. 


Squad number
Position Forward / Striker
Nationality Nigerian
Born Onitsha
Date of birth 5 June 1997
Height 5'-11" (1.75 m)
Joined 30 June 2017
Joined from KAS Eupen
Signed by Ronald Koeman
Transfer fee Undisc.[~£6.8M]
Contract duration 5 years
Contract expires January 2022
Left Everton 12 August 2019
Destination AS Monaco
Transfer fee Undisc.[€13.5M ^€15M]
Previous Clubs KAS Eupen
» Soccerbase Datafile
» Wikipedia Entry
» TransferMarkt

Everton Career

Season Squad No. League Apps (sub) League Goals Cup Apps (sub) Cup Goals Total Apps (sub) Total Goals
2018-19 * 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0
2017-18 * 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0
  Totals 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0
* On season-long loans at Anderlecht, then Galatasaray

Loan Spells

Season Team League Apps League Goals Cup Apps Cup Goals
2018-19 Galatasaray 28 (3) 14 5 (2) 0
2017-18 Anderlecht 14 (5) 9 4 (2) 0

Previous Career

Season Team League Apps League Goals Cup Apps Cup Goals
2014-17 Eupen 30 (0) 14 8 (0) 8


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