For all of West Brom’s failings in the transfer market under sporting and technical director Luke Dowling, the Hawthorns faithful can be rather grateful that he secured the services of Semi Ajayi for just £1.5m.
The likes of Kenneth Zohore, Karlan Grant and Kamil Grosicki are just a few examples of when it goes wrong for the former Watford chief but in the 27-year-old former Arsenal graduate, they have something quite special.
Ajayi was, of course, Slaven Bilic’s first-choice centre-back on Albion’s way to promotion last season and with the Midlands outfit looking rather likely to make an instant return to the Championship, the Nigerian international could well be key, if they keep hold of him.
The 6 foot 4 colossus is now valued at a whopping £13.5m by CIES Football Observatory – that’s a cool £12m increase on what they paid for him. And the Baggies have certainly landed a bargain, seeing as he’s gone onto feature 70 times and has scored eight goals too, via Transfermarkt.
As a nine-time international since his arrival, Ajayi has been a rare success for Dowling.
Now the key figure looks set to repeat such a masterstroke as West Brom have won the race to sign fellow countryman Kevin Joshua from local non-league outfit Solihull Moors.
The similarities are astonishing.
According to AllNigeriaSoccer earlier this month, Albion ‘pulled off a transfer coup’ by beating their top-flight rivals to the 19-year-old’s signing.
It’s claimed that Joshua impressed during a four-week trial and will remain at the Hawthorns until the end of the 2021/22 campaign. The lower league gem is eligible for both Nigeria and the Republic of Ireland at international level.
At 6 foot 6 inches in height, the young powerhouse is certainly in a similar mould to Ajayi whilst the glowing endorsement from his agent, Arfan Rehman, only reinforces this comparison.
After securing his client his first professional deal, he took to Twitter and said: “Congratulations to our client @Kevin__Joshua on signing his first professional contract with @WBA after a successful week trial, standing 6ft6 tall, the left-footed centre-back is aggressive, quick and excellent on the ball. Watch this space.”
Indeed, these are all characteristics of the current Baggies first-team star – the tough-tackling Ajayi has picked up 11 yellow cards and one red since joining West Brom, showing that aggressive side whilst he had the second-best passing accuracy (81.6%) of any central defender at the club last season.
If Joshua can start making waves in the academy set-up, then there’s a good chance he can one day succeed Ajayi. Perhaps Dowling has stumbled onto another winner here.
AND in other news, THIS appointment could save Rekeem Harper’s faltering West Brom career…