From college to the Premier League: Leicester sign forward Opoku out of Syracuse

Leicester City have signed forward Nathan Opoku, most recently of Syracuse University, the club announced on Tuesday.

Opoku, 21, has been immediately loaned to Belgian side OH Leuven, the sister club of Leicester due to having a common owner in travel retail company King Power.

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A native of Accra, Ghana, Opoku moved to the U.S. ahead of the 2021 collegiate season, playing for Lindsey Wilson, an NAIA school based in Columbia, Kentucky. He went on to score 19 goals in 19 games before transferring to Syracuse.

Prior to the 2022 collegiate season, Opoku played for the Ventura County Fusion in USL League Two, which occupies the fourth tier in the U.S. soccer system. Opoku scored 11 goals in 16 league and playoff appearances, and led Ventura County to the League Two title, scoring in the final.

Opoku continued his knack for scoring critical goals with the Orange. He started the season on the wing, but quickly formed a devastating strike partnership with Levonte Johnson on his way to 11 goals and eight assists, including a tally in the NCAA final, which the Orange won on penalties over Indiana University.

"He's a strong player, an intelligent player, holds the ball up really well, and that was something that impressed," said Syracuse head coach Ian McIntyre about Opoku. "[He has] very good feet. He's powerful, he's quick.

"But what really impressed us was his ability to be a link player for us and really complimented Levonte Johnson's pace in behind. So a very smart player, which I think surprised a few players. But he scored some big goals for us, and has the ability to create space in the box.

"He's quite elusive with his movement."

McIntyre added that Opoku had hoped to get to Europe sooner, but the COVID-19 pandemic limited his opportunities, hence his move to the U.S.

Following his exploits with Syracuse, Opoku was expected to draw considerable interest from MLS, but turned down a contract offer, leaving him to set his sights on Europe.

Leicester, who won the Premier League title in 2015-16 and the Fa Cup two years ago, are currently 14th in the Premier League standings.

Also on transfer deadline day on Tuesday, they loaned Spanish forward Ayoze Perez to LaLiga side Real Betis for the remainder of the season.