Liverpool striker Taiwo Awoniyi has revealed a conversation with Jurgen Klopp that prompted him to join Mainz on loan, in a bid to qualify for a UK work permit.
Awoniyi has been unable to play for the Reds since his arrival from the Imperial Soccer Academy in 2015, spending the entirety of his time on the books away on loan.
After a mixed campaign with KAA Gent and Royal Excel Mouscron last time out, the Nigerian made arguably his biggest step yet as he joined Mainz in the Bundesliga in August.
The goal is to accrue enough experience in a top-five European league, along with on the international stage, to secure a UK work permit through the appeals process—though, so far, he is yet to start for Klopp’s old club.
He did, however, receive a call-up to the Nigeria under-23s squad for the September international break, starting in both games against Sudan.
And speaking to SportingLife.ng, Awoniyi explained that Klopp had told him that if he qualifies for a work permit “in the next one or two years” he has a future at Liverpool, but if not he would need to “move on.”
“I went to Mainz because it was where Klopp started,” the striker explained.
“It is like his home and he said ‘Taiwo, you can go there and make it your home too’.
“He said hopefully I would get my chance there and that maybe in the next one or two years the work permit is given and I could come back, but if not I would have to move on with my career.
“I think the most important thing to say about that is that Liverpool are still looking forward to me getting a work permit that will make me eligible to play in the Premier League.
“I believe just this past summer they had the best opportunity to sell me to another club permanently because they had a lot of clubs that showed interest in me.
“But then they said they were not selling because they they don’t need to sell me, and that I am an amazing talent that could still blossom. This was the reason they kept me.”
These are encouraging words for the 22-year-old, who spent pre-season at Melwood but was unable to feature during any friendlies due to injury problems suffered at the end of 2018/19.
But it remains unlikely that his future lies with Liverpool, particularly as he is not a regular starter at Mainz at this stage, and for his dream to come to fruition that would have see the Reds to play a serious long game.
For the club it is a win-win situation, as Awoniyi himself attested to big-money interest in his services this summer gone.
If he obtains a work permit and settles into an unlikely first-team role at Liverpool, that would benefit the side, but if he is unable to the Reds could make a significant profit on their £400,000 outlay four years ago.