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Liverpool loanee’s untimely injury could have major impact on future at Anfield

Liverpool striker Taiwo Awoniyi still harbours hope of a future at Anfield, but an untimely injury could deny him the Nigeria call-up central to earning his work permit.

Awoniyi will mark the sixth anniversary of his arrival at Liverpool in August, but over that six-year period he has rarely spent time on Merseyside.

Instead, he has taken in a series of loan moves, the most recent being a productive season-long switch to Union Berlin in the Bundesliga, which has seen him score five goals and lay on four assists in 20 games so far.

Five goals and three assists came in an eight-game stretch between November and December, which prompted interest from Nigeria manager Gernot Rohr.

Rohr confirmed as much in an interview with News Central TV last month, naming Awoniyi along with Lorient’s Terem Moffi and Almeria’s Sadiq Umar as candidates for a first call-up to the senior squad.

Nigeria take on Benin and Lesotho later this month, needing a maximum of two points to book their place at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, and involvement in those games could have been pivotal for Awoniyi.

While the changes to work permit rules post-Brexit may work in the 23-year-old’s favour as he eyes a future at Liverpool, a key factor in gaining eligibility is international recognition.

But ahead of Union Berlin’s clash with Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday, Awoniyi remains sidelined with a muscle injury that has already kept him out of the last two games.

It is therefore now unlikely that Rohr will opt for Awoniyi as part of his squad, particularly given he is not already part of the senior setup, and this can be seen as his last chance prior to Liverpool applying for a work permit this summer.

“With the new rules in place, and the minutes I have played in Germany this season, no one knows what the future will hold regarding the UK work permit,” Awoniyi told World Soccer Magazine earlier this year.

“If I become eligible to play in the UK, I think I can have a say on what my decision will be.

“Things have changed remarkably with the new rules and this will certainly help me decide my next step.”

He added: “I am still a Liverpool player until the last day of my contract, but no one knows what the future holds.”