Henry Onyekuru hopes third loan to Galatasaray boosts Super Eagles claims

Henry Onyekuru has returned to Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray on load for the third time, after struggling for games with parent club AS Monaco in France. Jeroen Meuwsen/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Nigeria forward Henry Onyekuru is keen to get his career back on track after returning on loan to Turkey's Galatasaray, a club he calls his "second home" after two previous spells at the Istanbul-based giants.

During his first outing there, in 2019, the Nigerian tallied 16 goals and six assists as the club claimed a league and Cup double. That production endeared him to the fans, for whom he became something of a cult hero.

His second loan was nowhere near as productive as the first -- he scored only one goal during a six-month spell -- but the club nevertheless returned for his services again after his struggles at his parent club, AS Monaco.

Onyekuru has featured just four times this season for the French side, his most recent appearance back in September 2020, leaving him little choice but to seek a way out.

The loan move this time comes with the option of a permanent deal, and the Super Eagles striker is determined to make it count.

"I am very happy to be back in Galatasaray," Onyekuru told ESPN.

"This is the best club for me to get my career back on track. The club, the coach and the fans always show me love. They know what I can do and I don't have to start from the beginning to show them who I am."

Galatasaray sit third in the Turkish Super Lig standings, five points behind league leaders Besiktas and three behind Fenerbahce, both clubs fierce Istanbul rivals.

"My goal is to help the club to become champions again," Onyekuru said.

William d'Avila, Onyekuru's agent, told ESPN that he had a number of options on the table, including French club Stade Rennes, Onyekuru's former Belgian club Anderlecht, Germany's FC Augsburg, Russia's CSKA Moscow, and Gala's Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce.

But Onyekuru said there was really only one choice for him: "I chose Galatasaray because I just wanted to go somewhere that the coach knows me.

"He has confidence in me, and he knows how to get the best out of me.

"All I have to do is continue to work hard here so that I can get more regular games to get me back in shape so that I can play on a weekly basis."

Onyekuru has been considered one of the brighter talents for Nigeria's national team since breaking out with Eupen in the Belgian Jupiler League. And it was during his time at Gala that he earned a Nigeria call up.

He scored against the Seychelles in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, and then made a 12-minute substitute appearance at the tournament proper in the semifinal defeat by Algeria, against whom his somewhat unfortunate highlight was laying on the turf in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to defend Riyad Mahrez's game-winning free kick.

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has welcomed Onyekuru's latest move as a chance for the forward to stake his claim for a more permanent role with the Super Eagles.

Rohr told ESPN: "I hope that he can finally play and give us more competition to the ones that are playing now. He is a very good player, we like him, but he has to play like everybody, and I hope that he plays."

Onyekuru accepts that it is now up to him to stake a stronger claim: "It has been very tough so far, but the only one who has to fight back is me."

He has flitted in and out of the squad, the likes of Samuel Chukwueze, Samuel Kalu, Ahmed Musa ahead of him in the wide forward position, with Victor Osimhen all but untouchable at forward ahead of alternatives such as Cyriel Dessers and Paul Onuachu.

Onyekuru's path to force his way up the Super Eagles pecking order will depend on whether he can replicate the production of his first season in Turkey.