CHAD WINGER - Tuesday, October 26, 2004
"This guy will be in England soon," quipped a reporter from RTL, one of Belgium's largest TV stations. Those sentiments echoed minutes later by an announcer from RTBF, "Standard will have a hard time keeping him in Liege."
These comments, and others like them, have become the norm rather than the exception for rising U.S. star Oguchi Onyewu in recent weeks, as he find himself in the media spotlight after being named as the best domestic transfer of the close season by several Belgian publications.
More than a week after Standard Liege decided to exercise the purchase option on his loan deal with French side Metz, the soft spoken Washington, D.C. native has become a focal point in the club's future, as the team strives to ink him to a new deal.
"We will meet Gooch and his agent in the next 10 days. He wants to advise him to stay," Standard's Michel Preud'homme said. "His agent believes that more time at Standard Liege will help to raise his level, by playing every game at a UEFA [Cup] level team."
"I think he still has a lot to learn before reaching a Manchester United-type regular level," the former Belgian World Cup hero continued. "He can achieve it here in an international defense line."
While it remains to be seen whether or not the 22 year old extends his current contract, for the time being, Onyewu is content with his situation and is looking forward to the challenge of playing in the league as well as the UEFA Cup.
"My contract goes until to June 2006 and I am really happy about that," he tells YA. "Standard Liege is a good club, a good place to grow."
"In the UEFA Cup the competition's always gonna be good. Regardless of who we play, it's gonna be a hard game."
"I know that we drew Parma and we get to play them at home, so that's gonna be a good opportunity for us."
With big name squads such as Italy's Lazio and German side Hamburg SV rumored to covet the 6' 3", 205 pound defender, it's believed to be just a matter of time before the appeal of a larger squad and bigger league becomes too great to turn down.
"I dream to play in the Premier League," Onyewu said. "But, if I had the choice, I would pick a club like Middlesbrough or Bolton, where I could play more games."
"The difference with Liege would be the level of the opposition. Arsenal, Manchester United..."
Having recently been handed his first international cap by US boss Bruce Arena as a late sub in the 6-0 drubbing of CONCACAF minnow Panama, the future looks bright for Onyewu both domestically and internationally, a thought summed up by his head coach Dominique D'Onofrio.
"I can tell you: He will be a big star."
[note]Yanks Abroad's Stephan Pire contributed to this piece[/note]