Southampton have completed the deadline day signing of Nigerian striker Paul Onuachu as the potent attacker joins Nathan Jones’s ranks from Belgium Pro League leaders, Genk.
It’s been a steady rise to reach his “childhood dream” of playing in the Premier League, but Onuachu has finally arrived on the south coast with an established goalscoring pedigree after learning his trade in Europe.
Leaving his native country of Nigeria as a fresh-faced 18-year-old with an already towering stature, Saints’ latest addition has journeyed through Denmark and Belgium in a decade-long professional career to date.
Born in Owerri, Nigeria, Ebere Paul Onuachu - known more commonly as Paul Onuachu - began his footballing journey with FC Ebedei, an affiliate club of the Danish side, FC Midtjylland.
Since their formation in 1999, Midtjylland became famed for their analytical ‘Moneyball’ method of discovering players which included extensive scouting with partner clubs in Africa where a young Onuachu caught the eye.
At the time, attackers with the physicality suited for European football were the ideal targets and, standing at 6ft 7in, Onuachu fit the mould enough to join the academy in Denmark in 2012.
He was handed his professional debut that year in the Danish Cup, before making his first league appearance in December of that season with Midtjylland on the cusp of reaching European qualification.
A three-year contract was handed to Onuachu after his first season, and his gradual rise up the ranks was firmly underway.
As Midtjylland won their first league title in the 2014/15 season, he contributed with three goals in 14 appearances - primarily off the bench - whilst also enjoying a productive loan spell with Vejle Boldklub in the division below.
Onuachu returned from his loan spell at 21-years-old aiming to kick on; he scored nine goals in 37 outings, including two strikes in Europe, as Midtjylland finished third in the league but reached new heights in the Europa League round of 32.
Midtjylland were on an upward trajectory as a club whilst Onuachu was beginning to find his feet in European football, and this perfect storm resulted in a breakout season in 2016.
Across all competitions, the Nigerian forward scored 23 goals in 45 appearances before a season with 17 goals in 31 games followed as Midtjylland - and Onuachu - won their second league title.
Another 22 goals in 40 matches came in 2018/19, as Onuachu’s consistent form earned him a new milestone with his first call-up to Nigeria’s national team.
His first goal for the Super Eagles followed in 2019 on his second international appearance, as he cemented himself in the history books with his country’s quickest-ever goal inside ten seconds in a 1-0 win over Egypt.
Onuachu ended his time in Denmark with 74 goals in 181 games and sealed a move to the Belgian Pro League with Genk, as yet another step up was on the horizon for the then-25-year-old.
In his debut season he hit ten goals in 28 games before enjoying his best career output in the 2020/21 campaign.
His 35 goals in 41 games across all competitions fired Genk to the Belgian Cup title and Champions League qualification, whilst Onuachu picked up the Belgian Footballer of the Year award along with the Golden Shoe and a place in the Belgian Team of the Year.
Much more than a target man despite his remarkable aerial advantage, Onuachu’s scoring acumen put him on the radar of clubs in Europe’s major leagues thanks to his powerful, direct play and clinical finishing inside the penalty area.
Just like in his final years in Denmark, he displayed the ability to maintain his form in Belgium; 23 goals in 43 games followed last season before a blistering start to the current campaign has seen him score 17 goals in 22 appearances.
Onuachu is firmly in the prime years of a career that has been on a consistent rise since he made the bold move to Europe a decade ago.
With Saints’ position in the Premier League the clear target to preserve, Onuachu’s addition is a signal of intent as Nathan Jones’s side have an important second half of the season ahead of them.