On Monday, it was confirmed that Turkish club Trabzonspor had completed a season-long loan signing of Paul Onuachu from Southampton — a move expected to usher in a new dawn for the striker’s career.
The 29-year-old is looking to revive his career in the Turkish league after a disappointing 12-game spell with the Saints, where he had no goal and assist to his name.
Onuachu joined Southampton from Belgian club Genk on transfer deadline day in January for £18m on a three-and-a-half year deal, but moved again just seven months later after failing to find the net in 11 Premier League appearances as the Saints suffered relegation to the English championship last season. This season he made one appearance in the Carabao Cup against League Two side Gillingham.
Reports say Onuachu was desperate to prove himself elsewhere and thus took a massive wage cut to make the move to Trabzonspor after they agreed to pay €1.5m in two instalments for the Nigerian.
Onuachu’s move to Southampton was supposed to prove doubters wrong that he could play and score at the highest level in one of Europe’s biggest leagues.
The signing was regarded as a saving grace for the Saints, as they thought they were signing one of the world’s most prolific strikers. Unfortunately his signing turned out to be a dead loss after five months.
A record of no goals and assist in 11 EPL games (12 in all competitions) in his time at Saint Marys summed-up what turned out to be a miserable spell in the English topflight for the Nigerian striker.
Onuachu was a shadow of the striker who struck fear into the hearts of defenders while playing for Genk and Midtjylland.
Prior to his move to Southampton, Onuachu was regarded as one of the best out-and-out number nines in the world. Most clubs would have had him in their team. He had absolutely every attribute of a truly world-class striker playing mainly in the box.
His time at both Genk and Midtjylland were filled with goals. In Denmark, the striker scored 74 goals and made 23 assists, while a record of 85 goals and 10 assists in 134 games for Genk is even more impressive.
However, something changed that and that was high expectations, pressure to deliver and a swift change of coach at Southampton.
According to former Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, the former Genk striker joined Southampton at a time they were already under pressure to avoid relegation.
“Onuachu needs game time in order to get back to his sharpest in front of goal,” Rohr told PUNCH Sports Extra.
“He was not guaranteed that at Southampton hence a major reason for what you regard as poor spell. He needed a bit of time to adjust to the pressure, the style of English football and his teammates, but he will bounce back in Turkey.”
Onuachu’s former agent, Churchill Oliseh, also believes the lanky striker will come good at his new club.
He said, “He is a great player who I believe will find his feet again in Turkey.”
Izunna Uzochukwu, who was instrumental to Onuachu’s rise at Midtjylland, added that the striker would return to scoring form when the team start playing to his strength.
“Every player has his own quality and we all know Paul is clinical in front of goal but does he get the supply he needs to score? I think his move to Turkey will help him get back to scoring ways again. He is a great striker but you need to find him with good passes and crosses.”
Signing Onuachu is a no-lose for Trabzonspor. They have paid out a minimal loan fee for a player who has history of being prolific in front of goal. If he is successful then they can sign him on a permanent deal, if not he returns to Saint Mary’s.
Trabzonspor coach, Nenad Bjelica, knew that he could not get a striker anywhere else with the same goal scoring record with the Turkish transfer window billed to be shut on Friday. This could be a very shrewd signing by the Croatian coach but will Paul Onuachu revive his career at Trabzonspor?
Trabzonspor fans are expecting just that.
His arrival in Turkey on Saturday saw Tranzonspor fans swarm around him at the airport. Turkish news agency, Demirören Haber Ajansı, uploaded a video to their X page showing the Nigeria international surrounded by jubilant Trabzonspor fans at the Trabzon Airport International Terminal.
The Super Eagles star was cheered by the fans as he made his way into a waiting car that took him to the hotel where he would be staying.
Trabzonspor have made statement signings in the summer transfer window, bringing in Mislav Orsic and Nicolas Pépé from Southampton and Arsenal respectively, with Onuachu their next high-profile signing.
The 6foot7inch striker expressed his happiness over the move and promised to give his best.
“You could see the welcome from fans at the airport, it was crazy. It makes me think ok, this is really a football city, I’m really happy they came because it shows that they give a lot of support to the players here in Trabzon. I’m here to fight for the badge, to win the championship and reach our target,” he said.