Amadou Onana: Next Big Thing

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  • Post published:June 10, 2024

When the dust settles on a turbulent 2023–24 season for Everton, holding on to one of the most prized midfielders in Europe will be their next big challenge, writes Nick Said.

Everton have not got all that much right in the transfer market in recent years, but they can put a big tick next to the name of Belgian midfielder Amadou Onana, who looks set to become a leading light on the continent in the next few years.

It looks almost certain the 22-year- old will leave Goodison Park in this next transfer window, with the key for cash-strapped Everton to maximise their profits. They bought him from French Ligue 1 side Lille in August 2022 for €35 million and will look, at the very least, to get double that. If Chelsea were willing to pay €116 m for Moisés Caicedo in August 2023, then Onana looks an absolute bargain at anything below €100 m.

Standing 1.92 metres tall, the big Belgian is a physically imposing figure with excellent timing in the tackle and a passing range of the highest calibre.

He has featured in an Everton side for the past few years that has not been best suited to his talents, but you could see how he could ‘purr’ at the likes of Arsenal or Barcelona.

These are just two of the clubs reportedly interested. Manchester United and Chelsea have also been linked, along with a host of other clubs across Europe.

“I see myself having had a lot of life experiences, which will have made me learn a lot about human beings in general, as well as about myself. I see myself, God willing, in one of the biggest clubs recognised worldwide,” Onana said last year.

He admits he lives very much in the now, but after rejecting moves away from Everton at the start of this season, it would be a surprise were he to stay for another campaign. The other factor is that Everton may need to cash in.

They could well have to sell one big name by the end of June, and their two most bankable players are Onana and excellent central defender Jarrad Branthwaite.

“It doesn’t matter how far you’ve made it in football or life, or who you are or where you’ve come from. It’s the same for everyone. Tomorrow, anything could end. You have to live life to the fullest and go after all of your goals,” Onana told Footballer Fits.

He spent the first 11 years of his life in Dakar, Senegal, one of 14 in his household, before joining his Belgium-based, Cameroon-born father in Brussels. It is the females in his life that have been the most influential.

“They played a crucial role in my journey to making it as a professional,” he said. “My sister was battling cancer at the same time she helped me get a move to Hoffenheim. To this day, she is my agent.

“She takes care of everything in my life. Literally everything. From a personal trainer to a chef to a mental coach, whatever I need, she takes care of it. A big shout out to my sis. She is one of the strongest human beings I know.

“With my mum, she did a lot. She’s my queen. She gave up on her life and her dreams for me. She had her own business in Senegal as a physio and gave up on all of that to move to Belgium to make her child’s dream a reality. I could never say ‘thank you’ enough to my mum.” Onana started his youth career at Belgian side Zulte Waregem before moving to German outfits Hoffenheim and then Hamburg. It was at Lille that he made his top-flight debut in the 2021/22 season, moving to Everton a year later.

“I feel very happy living in England; I’ve been accepted as I am,” he said.

“I’m a loud character and I’m quite different from other people. I think that’s normalised here, which is a great thing for me.

“In England, I feel like people are very open-minded. You’re accepted no matter who you are, what you come from, what religion you follow, and you can be yourself.”

And wherever he goes next, Onana does not want to be remembered as just a fine footballer.

“I want to break records; I want to win as many trophies as I can; I want to push the barriers and play as many games as I can. I want people to remember me as the football player I am,” he said.

“But more importantly, I want people to remember the person I am. To remember the people I inspired and the charity work I’ve done. I want to help as many people as I can, donate as much as I can and do as much as I can for my people.

“At the end of the day, that’s what really matters to me, man. Football is great, but there’s a life after it. I want to be remembered for way, way more than just football.”

Photo by Backpagepix