For the past few years of his professional career, Olanrewaju ‘Larry’ Kayode has enjoyed being an attacking protagonist during two seasons with Maccabi Netanya in Israel, followed by another two campaigns in the Austrian Bundesliga with Austria Wien. Hard work, quality performances and powerful finishing the 2016/17 season as the leading top-flight scorer in Austria, were enough to encourage Manchester City to knock at his door.
Whether that move was one of long-term vision by the English club, or simply motivated by their recently established links with Spanish side Girona, remains to be seen. 24-year-old Kayode currently finds himself playing in La Liga rather than the Premier League, but with a genuine opportunity to follow in the footsteps of other leading Nigerian stars over the last three decades, there’s the chance to really make a name for himself in one of the top leagues in the world.
This is the first time the club has ever played in the Spanish top-flight since its foundation in 1930, so it’s both uncharted and exciting territory for their fans, even if it could prove to be a long and difficult season. At odds of 5/2 and amongst the favourites for relegation in the La Liga betting, Girona have plenty to improve.
The same might be said for Kayode, who has yet to score for his new side, although in his defence, his participation in games has been very limited. Featuring just once in the starting eleven and with six further appearances from the substitutes bench, by the international break at the start of October, a closer look at the numbers is more revealing; just 186 minutes spent on the pitch and most of those coming towards the end of games.
Adapting to a new league and culture may provide one reason for Kayode not yet becoming a regular starter, despite the excellent scoring credentials at previous clubs. However, he also has stiff competition amongst the forward options in the shape of Cristhian Stuani, who boasts a wealth of La Liga experience. Additionally, the 30-year-old Uruguayan international already has three goals to his name so far this term.
Most of the substitute appearances made by Kayode have come when he’s directly replaced Stuani in attack, but the Nigerian is faring better in terms of minutes played than another African striker at Girona, 23-year-old Kenya international Michael Olunga, likewise a recent addition during the summer on loan from Guizhou Zhicheng of China.
Girona boss Pablo Machin also tends to favour single striker formations. Interestingly, the only starting eleven appearance Kayode made was in the 0-0 draw away at Leganes, starting alongside Stuani to form an attacking duo and arguably performing better than the Uruguayan, yet sacrificed in the second half when Machin reverted to playing with a single striker.
After making his full international debut with Nigeria in the 1-1 friendly draw against Senegal last March, followed by another outing in the 3-0 win against Togo in June, Kayode will undoubtedly be keen to get more La Liga minutes if he’s to impress Super Eagles boss, Gernot Rohr.
This season is looking as though it will be the most difficult yet of his career, but with patience and perseverance, the talented striker will hopefully rise to the challenge over the course of the campaign in Spain and be rewarded with the minutes he deserves.