Arsenal, West Ham or Lyon: After a long journey to silence his critics what next for Onuachu?

Yakubu Aiyebeni, Rashidi Yekini, Richard Owubokiri and recently Simy Nwankwo were some of Nigeria’s most prolific goalscorers in a single season of Europe’s biggest leagues.

However, while these players posted impressive numbers for their respective clubs, one player is head and shoulders above them, and that’s Paul Onuachu.

The 27-year-old made history last season as he became Nigeria’s most prolific goalscorer in a single season in Europe’s top ten leagues.

But before his record-breaking season, Onuachu had to deal with criticism since his career started. The exceptionally tall striker started his playing career at FC Ebedei in Ijebu-Ode.

Ebedei are owned by Churchill Oliseh, the brother of former Super Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh. Onuachu could not have hoped for a better place to start his career as Ebedei are known for developing strong talents.

The Ijebu-based side produced one of Nigeria’s best strikers in the modern era in Obafemi Martins. Aside from a proven track record in the development of youngsters, the club also acted as a feeder club to FC Midtjylland, which is the club Onuachu started his European journey.

Onuachu left Ebedei for Denmark in 2012 and was assigned to Midtjylland’s U-19 team. He finished as the top scorer in the team and was immediately promoted to the first team after just a year.

However, he struggled a little bit after his promotion, making just 21 appearances in two seasons, but it was expected, given he was still young then.

After two seasons in the first team, the Nigerian international went out on loan to Vejle. He started slowly at his new club but scored five goals and registered one assist in 13 games before returning to Midtjylland.

The following season saw Onuachu became a regular in Midtjylland’s squad, making 25 league appearances in the 2015/2016 campaign.

His breakthrough moment came in the Europa League encounter against Manchester United, where he scored the opening goal, although the Red Devils won 2-1.

Onuachu scored nine goals in the 2015/2016 season before scoring a remarkable 23 the following campaign (2016/2017). Although he did not reach the heights in the 2017/2018 campaign, he still managed 17 goals in all competitions.

By this time, his profile was on the rise, but fans back home were still unconvinced of his qualities. The 2018/2019 season was Onuachu’s last year at Midtjylland, and also the year Nigerian fans had a chance to see a glimpse of him as he made his debut in March 2019.

It was a successful season for him, scoring 20 goals in all competitions, including 14 in the league. He also had a Super Eagles debut to remember, scoring a fantastic volley to help Nigeria beat Egypt in an international friendly.

Yet, these performances did not convince Nigerian fans, who were not impressed with his style. He did make the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations squad, but his performance did his reputation more harm than good.

Nonetheless, after the 2019 Nations Cup, Onuachu moved to the Belgian Jupiler League, where he signed with Racing Genk.

Onuachu’s first season at the club saw him score nine league goals in 22 games. While it was a decent return, it still did not convince critics.

However, it all changed in the just-concluded season. The 27-year-old scored a whopping 35 goals in 41 games to finally silence his critics.

The Nigerian scored 33 goals in the league alone to help Genk qualify for the Champions League, while he scored another two to help his side win the Belgian Cup.

Even on the international scene where he has always struggled, the perception of fans towards him changed after scoring in back to back games in March.

It was not just the goals for Onuachu, the Nigerian also showed he could bring others into the game. The 27-year-old created seven big chances last season while he also set up five goals.

Not only that, but the Nigerian also had a 73% pass accuracy percentage, with 68% coming in the opposition half.

His relationship with Junya Ito and Theo Bongonda was also a delight to watch. But the relationship may not continue next season as Onuachu is expected to leave Genk this summer.

The Nigerian has caught the eye of many European clubs, who are willing to pay for his services. Genk expect him to leave, but they want an amount in excess of 20m euros for him.

While it’s a good thing that he could be on the move this summer, it’s important Onuachu moves to a club where he’ll be guaranteed a place in the lineup.

Arsenal are one of the clubs interested in his services, but even though the Super Eagles star claims to be a boyhood fan of the club, a move to the Emirates is not what he needs.

The Gunners already have Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, and that could reduce his playing time. It’s also difficult for him to fit into Arsenal’s style of play.

West Ham are another Premier League club linked to him, but given Sebastian Haller, a striker similar to Onuachu, struggled at the club last season, it may not be the best move.

Watford have also been credited with an interest, but with the Hornets signing almost all the strikers in the world, Onuachu is better off elsewhere.

French Ligue 1 club Lyon looked more serious than other clubs, and it’s a move that could suit Onuachu perfectly.

Les Gones are looking for more firepower upfront after losing talisman Memphis Depay, and Onuachu could be the man, even though they are two different players.

Also, given the success of Nigerian strikers in the French top-flight in recent years, a move to Lyon looks like the best option for Onuachu.

But away from Lyon, the ex-Midtjylland striker could still stay at Genk, which allows him to build on last season’s remarkable feat. It also offers him the opportunity to play in Europe’s biggest club competition.

Nonetheless, whatever happens with his future, Onuachu’s performance last season will give him enough confidence to embrace the challenge.

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