Schalke have made an approach to sign Liverpool striker Taiwo Awoniyi – but will face competition from a host of European clubs for the Nigeria Under-23 international this summer.
The Nigerian frontman has impressed with six goals in seven appearances on loan at Belgian side Mouscron
Awoniyi has caught the eye since re-joining Belgian side Mouscron on loan in January, following an underwhelming spell with Gent earlier in the season.
The 21-year-old has scored six goals in seven games for the Jupiler Pro League outfit, helping them to six wins and a draw in that period.
Liverpool, who monitor his progress through Julian Ward, their loan pathways and football partnerships manager, have fielded numerous enquiries over the powerful frontman in recent weeks.
Schalke are the latest to express an interest, with Goal understanding the Bundesliga outfit contacted Reds boss Jurgen Klopp directly to ask about Awoniyi’s availability for a transfer this summer.
Liverpool would seek in excess of £10 million (€11.5m) for a permanent deal, and believe Awoniyi’s profile and record in Belgium – he scored 10 goals for Mouscron last season – make that a more than fair price. Awoniyi signed an improved, five-year contract with the Reds last summer, and is closing in on 100 senior appearances. He turns 22 in August.
The Reds remain open to another loan deal, however, and Awoniyi’s future could even be affected by the impending withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, which could have a knock-on effect for players seeking work permits.
Awoniyi, as it stands, does not qualify to work in the UK, and has, therefore, spent the last four seasons on loan with FSV Frankfurt, NEC Nijmegen, Mouscron and Gent. If he were to qualify, post-Brexit, then Liverpool’s preference would be to loan him out again, this time in the Premier League or upper-Championship, where they would be confident of attracting strong interest.
They already have loan interest from French trio Metz, Nice and Toulouse, while Belgian side Club Brugge and German duo Hertha Berlin and Mainz have also asked to be kept aware of developments.
Liverpool hopes Awoniyi’s form will be recognized in the shape of an international call-up from Nigeria, though he has not been selected for their games with Seychelles and Egypt later this month.
Awoniyi has previously represented his country at Under-23 level but was left out of their squad for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and was unable to force his way into their plans for last summer’s World Cup in Russia.
His form for Mouscron, though, is making him hard to ignore this time around. And with the Africa Cup of Nations to come in Egypt this summer, it could be a big few months for the Reds youngster.