Rotherham United: International disappointment for Semi Ajayi

Rotherham United defender Semi Ajayi has suffered international heartbreak after missing out on Nigeria's 23-man squad for the African Nations Cup.

Tuesday, 11th June 2019, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th June 2019, 3:00 pm
Semi Ajayi

Ajayi, who was a standout performer for the Millers last season, had been part of the Super Eagles squad for the entire 2018/19 campaign and was named in the 25-man preliminary squad.

But, along with Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho, he has missed the cut in Gernot Rohr's final 23-man squad for the tournament in Egypt, which kicks-off on June 21.

Ajayi posted on Instagram: “Wishing my brothers the best of luck at the upcoming #AFCON2019.

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“It’s been a privilege to have been part of this squad and as much as I’m gutted that I can’t make it I wish every one linked with the Super Eagles the very best of luck this summer.

“I will be supporting the team until the end. Go and make Nigeria proud my brothers.”

While boss Paul Warne will naturally be disappointed for his player, from a personal point of view he may look at it as a positive.

If Nigeria were to go a long way in the competition, Ajayi could have been playing until July 19, almost three weeks after the Millers are due to return for pre-season training.

Warne stores 100 per cent faith in the value of those first few weeks back after the summer, both from a fitness point of view and also from a team bonding one and he would like as full a squad as possible there.

Then there is the added bonus that the 25-year-old will not put his name on the map any more than he already has, which might make it easier to keep him this summer.

Along with Will Vaulks, Ajayi is a player the Millers are bracing themselves for interest in this summer.

They were aware that playing at such a high-profile tournament would likely increase the interest in him and allow Ajayi the opportunity to earn himself a lucrative move.

That may still come, but there may now be less interest.

Either way, the Millers will not be prepared to let him go on the cheap.

“We are not necessarily planning for Semi to go but we must have an eye on who's available in terms of trying to replace him if ever he does move on," assistant Richie Barker said.

"At the moment, we've had no eye-watering bids for him.

“The football club is in a really good place. We don't need to be selling assets that we've worked extremely hard to create.

“We certainly don't need to be selling them cheaply."