Hidden gem: Midfield dynamo Olawoyin dazzling in Turkey

Caykur Rizespor midfielder Ibrahim Olawoyin has been one of the revelations of the season in the 2023/24 Turkish Super Lig and the former Enugu Rangers man is still aiming to reach higher heights in his debut Super Lig season, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

Last weekend, the midfielder scored his eighth goal of the season in their teeth-gnashing 3-2 defeat against Besiktas, which left their hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers hanging in the balance.

Before then, Olawoyin scored a goal and assisted the other in their 2-2 draw against Ankaragucu for his seventh goal as well as the third assist of the campaign. He assisted Adolfo Gaich for Rizespor’s first in the 25th minute while he added the second seven minutes later.

He is also Nigeria’s highest-scoring midfielder in Europe with only Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi close to him with his four goals and five assists in 32 appearances for the Championship winners.

Having contributed to 11 goals already this season, the Nigerian is still looking to better his best tally, which stands at eight goals and seven assists, which he achieved at Lig 1 side, Keciorengucu, in 2021/22, his first season in Europe.

“It’s refreshing to see the numbers looking good for me after every game but the most important thing for me is to help my team win matches. That’s why I am here and obviously scoring more and providing more assists is the way, so, I won’t mind doing it more for the team,” Olawoyin told PUNCH Sports Extra.

This season, which is his first in the topflight, the 26-year-old has usually been deployed in a deeper midfield role alongside former Liverpool midfielder, Jonjo Shelvey.

Despite being an attacking midfielder with flair and an eye for goals since his days in the Nigeria Premier Football League, a more defensive midfield role hasn’t stopped him from notching eight goals and three assists, making him the joint second-highest goal scorer for the club with Adolfo Gaich and behind Dal Varesanovic, who has nine goals.

“It’s not easy playing out of position but all the same I am a professional footballer, anywhere my coach deems fit for me to play, I will play there. I also believe in myself because I normally adapt to any position I find myself. Moreover, I also like to contribute to the team offensively and defensively,” he said.

After joining Rizespor from Keciorengucu midway through last season, he was instrumental in the team’s promotion to the Super Lig with three goals and two assists. He had scored three goals plus seven assists for Keciorengucu before making the switch.

From being promoted from the second division at the start of the season, Rizespor are now seeking to play in Europe next season but they have their work cut out for them with three games remaining.

Following the defeat against Besiktas on Sunday, Rizespor remain on 49 points and need to win all their remaining three games to be sure of the playoff position.

One of their three remaining games will see them go toe-to-toe with Kasimpasa, who also have 49 points and seeking the Conference League spot as well. Before then, they will travel to 19th-place Pendikspor before finishing the campaign away at Hatayspor.

“We have three games left, we will take each game one after the other and see where we can finish at the end of the season,” Olawoyin stated about his team’s chances.

After scoring on Sunday, Olawoyin has now matched his best goal tally in Europe. Two more goals will see him reach double figures and ultimately move Rizespor to their desired position in the table if the results turn out in their favour.

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