ROTHERHAM United are facing up to the prospect that they could lose Sky Bet March Championship Player of the Month Semi Ajayi at the end of the season.
Ajayi, who can play as a centre-half or holding midfielder, has scored eight goals in the Millers' push for second-tier survival and has broken into the Nigerian international set-up.
The 25-year-old is under contract for another year but manager Paul Warne acknowledges that one of Rotherham's prized assets will depart if bigger sides come calling in the summer.
“Unless you are the richest club in the world, you are always potentially going to have your best players moving on,” the manager said.
“This isn't being disrespectful to any Rotherham fans, but you can't expect the best players to stay here forever. If they are that good and they are performing to a level, they will move on.
“Look at Chelsea — they can't keep hold of Eden Hazard. If Semi bangs in ten goals from midfield, plays for his country and three clubs want him, we won't be able to hold on to him. I'm not trying to be depressing. It's just a fact.”
Ajay has started every Millers match this season and hit the net five times in five games last month to pick up the Sky Bet prize.
He was signed on a free transfer from Cardiff City by Warne after a successful loan spell in 2017 and has made 104 appearances in total.
“I'm really pleased for him,” the boss said. “When I brought him to the club a couple of years ago, he was definitely raw around the edges, but we always thought that if we could polish him a little bit he would become a great player.
“He's a great kid. He's always smiling, he's always positive. He's had his Nigeria call-up this season which has helped his career and his profile no end.
“He got a lot of goals in March, and for him to be named the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month makes me really proud of him.
“He trains really hard and he looks after himself. He's pretty dedicated to his football.
“I think the award is also a bit of recognition for his teammates. It shows how competitive people think our team have been. Semi last month was obviously regarded as the best of the bunch.”
With their player tied to AESSEAL New Year Stadium until the end of June next year, the Millers will be able to demand a hefty fee if Ajayi attracts interest.
The Millers restructured their talent-spotting department three weeks ago and new recruitment duo Rob Scott and Chris Trotter are working with Warne on summer transfer targets.
“Obviously I don't want Semi to leave,” Warne said. “But if I took off my manager's hat and looked it at from a personal point of view, do I want him to go on and play as high as he can and have the best life he can? Of course I do.
“That's why our recruitment is key. You have to bring in other players, and hopefully the fans believe in what we're trying to do. If players do move on for sizeable fees and we can reinvest the money ... well, that's just how football is.
“If it works for both parties that he then moves on, he goes with my love.”
This article first appeared in the Advertiser