The West Bromwich Albion defender recounts the day Samuel Chukwueze took Gernot Rohr’s first team to the cleaners ahead of a crucial AFCON qualifier
Semi Ajayi has hailed Villarreal winger Chukwueze has a wonderkid while recalling the excellent impression the youngster had on him the first time they trained together three years ago.
Chukwueze was one of the brightest stars on display when the Golden Eaglets romped to victory at the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Chile.
The young dazzler’s raw talent was undeniable, and he was quickly promoted to the Super Eagles barely two years after.
Many stars in Gernot Rohr’s squad – including former Arsenal ace Ajayi – knew little of Chukwueze back then. But he announced himself to them in a most unforgettable way ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa in November 2017.
In an Instagram Live chat, Ajayi tells the story of how Chukwueze ran rings round the Super Eagles Team A, made up of players earmarked for a starting spot against Bafana Bafana, forcing Rohr to change his formation during the workout.
“He (Chukwueze) is a wonderkid, he’s next up if you don’t know about him. I remember his first training session with Nigeria, he’s got called up, and I have never seen him before, never played with him before,” Ajayi said.
“We were playing 11 v 11, the coach has picked the first team that’s going to play, we were preparing for South Africa, and he wanted us to play three at the back, normally we play four at the back.
“I’m on the B team, not in the starting lineup, and Samuel Chukwueze is in my team, and he destroyed the whole first team on his own, just give him the ball, he kept destroying them to the point the coach changed his mind, that he doesn’t think it’s three at the back, it won’t work.
“We went back to a four for the second half, and he destroyed them again. These times, the pitch that we were on, one pitch in Asaba, the pitch is terrible, anyone that plays for Nigeria would tell you how bad the pitch is, you cannot dribble on it.
“Chukwueze got the ball at his feet, dribbling around people as it’s like, like he’s playing at Old Trafford.
“That day I said, who is this kid? He has been in the squad ever since and doing well in La Liga as well.”
While Ajayi was dropped for the 2019 AFCON, Chukwueze played a crucial role in helping Nigeria claim a bronze medal in Egypt.