Nigerian international and West Bromwich Albion central defender Semi Ajayi has revealed that Samuel Chukwueze made a good first impression on him in the days leading up to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, against South Africa in November 2017.
Ajayi said that the Villarreal winger easily went past the Super Eagles Team A, made up of players earmarked for a starting spot against South Africa, so much so that manager Gernot Rohr was forced 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.”
The training session was held at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria.
“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,” Ajayi narrated
What surprised Ajayi the most about Chukwueze was the fact that the winger was comfortable showcasing his dribbling skills on the pitch.
“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,” he added.
“Chukwueze got the ball at his feet, dribbling around people as it’s nothing, 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.”
Chukwueze has been living up to his wonderkid status as he was nominated for the prestigious Kopa Trophy award for the best U-21 footballer in the world, as well as the CAF Youth Player of the Year awards in 2019.