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What should Everton do with Henry Onyekuru?

Monday 26th March 2018

Everton has a welcoming dilemma on their hands as it concerns youngster Henry Onyekuru. The Nigerian is back in training after almost three injury-ravaged months on loan at Anderlecht. Will he continue rehabilitation at Finch Farm or be sent back to Belgium?

Of all Toffees’ foreign summer arrivals Onyekuru seems the most astute piece of business even without kicking a ball for the club. Sandro Ramirez couldn’t wait another summer before jumping back to Spain. Davy Klaassen, who did, was left without any choice after a Napoli switch fell through at the last hurdle. Nikola Vlasic is a Goodison Park ghost. He has made just one appearance in 2018.

Unlike those three Onyekuru wasn't given the chance to prove his worth in Everton blue. Work permit issues forced the 20-year-old to spend the season elsewhere. Having blossomed in the Jupiler League before being plucked for a £7 million fee from KAS Eupen, where he had been top scorer, it was logical to send him back to the same environment. Until he was injured, it had proven a masterstroke.

He conveyed his rich vein of form to Anderlecht. Fourteen starts yielded an impressive 10 goals. Having knocked in 23 in 42 for Eupen, Onyekuru was on fire. In truth he began quite modestly, failing to find the target in his first four outgoings at the Constant Vanden Stock. Even when his teammates appeared mediocre on Champions League nights, Onyekuru distinguished himself.  He was the sole shining light in purple and white.

With innate ability to play as a winger on either flank and as a central striker, he was wherever Anderlecht needed him to be. His goals in Belgium have displayed his multiple skills. He has beaten defenders with blazing acceleration, ghosted through crowds with magical close control, and rounded keepers with calm and cool.

Although not the strongest, Onyekuru is blessed with incredible craft and pace to run directly at defenders. He uses his quick feet to escape opposing players before exploding into space. His work attracted interest beyond Everton. Even Toffees faithful were calling for his return.

Unfortunately tragedy struck. Onyekuru broke his knee and appeared to be out for the season's remainder. His World Cup dreams evaporated. In January he returned to Merseyside to begin rehabilitation. Despite the knock he still picked up Belgium's Young Player of the Year award, reflecting his superb impact.

Contrary to expectations Onyekuru is already back on his feet. The 20-year-old didn’t go under the knife. He recuperated under the watchful eyes of Everton's medical staff. There is concern the decision to forego surgery was risky.

Onyekuru seems desperate to play for Everton next season. The Toffees are even more eager to unleash their young Nigerian. To do so still requires a work permit, obtainable only if he plays for the Super Eagles in Russia. To be selected he must prove his fitness at Anderlecht. Despite his progress that seems unlikely. Worst case scenario, Onyekuru will spend the rest of the campaign recovering with Everton, then be farmed out on loan again for another year. It will be heartbreaking for the lad but it's the most realistic option. 

Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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