When the footballers of 1. FC Union strolled onto the lawn for the first public training session at 10:28 a.m. on Wednesday, one of them was already gone. Less than half an hour earlier, Taiwo Awoniyi had already left the stadium grounds. “I saw him,” said coach Urs Fischer. “But please don’t dig deeper now. I won’t say anything about that.”
That wasn’t even necessary, because it’s no longer a secret that the Nigeria international striker will leave the club. Awoniyi had already missed the sports medical examination and the performance tests on Monday and Tuesday, and now he is said to have said goodbye to the team on Wednesday before training. English and Nigerian media are unanimous in reporting an agreement with Nottingham Forest. The former European Cup winner has just returned to the Premier League after 23 years and is said to be ready to pay the agreed €20m transfer fee.
For Union, the transfer is a great sporting loss, after all, Awoniyi was by far the top scorer in Berlin last season with 20 goals in all competitions. Financially, however, the Europa League participants are entering new dimensions. The most expensive departures so far were Robert Andrich and Sebastian Andersson, each with 6.5 million euros. Awoniyi brings the club three times as much. In relation to the budget, the magnitude of the transfer becomes particularly clear. Last season, Union planned almost 42 million euros for the professional team.
Awoniyi was only signed last summer after a one-year loan. The Berliners paid Liverpool FC, with whom Awoniyi had been under contract since 2015 but for whom he never played a competitive game, 6.5 million euros. However, Jürgen Klopp’s club is said to have secured a resale participation. According to this, Union would have to forward around two of the 20 million directly to Liverpool.
Even if the Berliners still have four professionals in their squad after Awoniyi’s departure with Sheraldo Becker, Andreas Voglsammer, Sven Michel and Kevin Behrens who can play in the center of the attack, manager Oliver Ruhnert will be active again in attack. In line with the club’s maxim, which President Dirk Zingler repeatedly emphasizes: Money is not there to pay off debts, but to strengthen the squad.
With goalkeeper Lennart Grill, central defender Danilho Doekhi, central midfielders Janik Haberer and Paul Seguin and attacking forces Milos Pantovic, Tim Skarke and Jamie Leweling, Union has already signed seven newcomers. Rick van Drongelen, Tymoteusz Puchacz, Pawel Wszolek, Fabio Schneider and Tim Maciejeweski are also returning from their loans. In view of this overcrowded squad, something will also happen on the departure side.
The national players Christopher Trimmel, Julian Ryerson, Genki Haraguchi, Andras Schäfer and Puchacz are currently on vacation. Leweling is in rehab after tearing his ankle ligaments. Doekhi is expected at the short training camp in Bad Saarow on Thursday, Wszolek will start next week and Timo Baumgartl could join the team at the second training camp in Austria in mid-July after suffering from testicular cancer. Even if Fischer hasn’t got all his players together yet, he’s happy that Union was once again faster on the transfer market than most of the competition. “It has always helped us in the past to have the boys in training early,” said the Swiss.