Follow along carefully if you can, because this Henry Onyekuru situation has all the makings of a Tom Clancy thriller!
When Everton signed the young forward from KAS Eupen at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, the club was well aware that they would not be able to get a work permit for the player and chose to loan him out to Anderlecht.
Onyekuru was an instant success for the Belgian club, banging in 10 goals and even in his role as an impact substitute was able to change games late with his pace and movement. But late in 2017 he picked up a knee injury that Anderlecht’s medical staff insisted would need surgery.
The player returned to Finch Farm where the club determined he wouldn’t need a medical procedure and got him under a physiotherapy regime. Once he was about 90% recovered, Onyekuru went back to Anderlecht to get back to full fitness.
Then news leaked that his loan deal was actually for two years, with Everton holding the option to bring him to England this summer, likely pending a work permit application, which was expected to sail through if the player was in Nigeria’s squad to the World Cup.
However, despite having proved his fitness with the Anderlecht youth side over two weeks ago, he has yet to play for the senior side currently engaged in the Jupiler League Championship playoffs. Anderlecht lost their last two games, virtually knocking them out of contention for a Champions League spot next season.
Onyekuru had already indicated that he would like to stay at Anderlecht next season, but only on the condition that the Belgian club qualified for the Champions League, and that is looking very unlikely now.
And then things started getting interesting, with Nigerian sports outlet Score Nigeria (via SportWitness) saying:
“Onyekuru not playing since his full recovery from injury is not funny. He has not been played for Anderlecht’s main team after his recovery not because he is not fit but because of what I will call selfish interest.
“The club want him to stay for another season and know Henry will get a work permit to play for Everton if he features at the Russia 2018 World Cup. I think the coach is trying to prevent that from happening.
“Henry has played for the reserve team and it was obvious in those games he is fully fit. In fact the club’s fans are not happy because Anderlecht lost in the championship to Standard Liege at home. They were given impression Henry is not fit but they know he is okay now.”
Nigeria today announced their 30-man provisional squad and disappointingly for Onyekuru, he has been omitted from the list and it looks very difficult for him to break in now with no time left in the current season.
.@NGSuperEagles 30-Man Provisional World Cup list #SoarSuperEagles #SuperEagles pic.twitter.com/OcTuwtNGbR— The NFF (@thenff) May 14, 2018
Everton still have the option to apply for an exception to the work permit rule should they want to bring Onyekuru to the Premier League for next season, but the club needs to sort their own affairs first regarding the future of manager Sam Allardyce and Director of Football Steve Walsh before anything else happens.