Earlier today Sunderland completed the signing of central defender Aji Alese from West Ham United. The 21-year-old’s signing was announced on safc.com. Alese has signed a three-year deal with the club having the option to extend it by an extra year. The fee is undisclosed.
Alese arrives on Wearside with a growing reputation and the attributes to make him a first-team regular for years to come. At 6ft 4in he is an imposing presence in defence. This attribute and others will hold him in good stead for a tough Championship campaign ahead.
Aji Alese Could Be the Find of the Transfer Window
Defender Has All the Attributes to Succeed at Sunderland
🏴 England Under-20 international#AjiArrives 👋
— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) July 15, 2022
Praise Aplenty for Alese
Three managers who know Aji Alese well, spoke to The Athletic earlier this year and were full of praise for the youngster.
Former West Ham United Under-23 manager Dmitri Halajko said: He’s from a lovely family, he’s been brought up well and his standards of behaviour are exceptional. He’s a great young man.
“He’s quick, good on the ball, he has a nice left foot. A good range of passing and defends well in one-on-one situations and a reliable, mature young man. But, most important, he’s a quiet leader. His leadership skills are at a high level.
“Playing under-23s is good for your development but there comes a point when they need to be tested in senior football,” he says. “I think for Aji, that’s his next step. He’s going to be a very good player and hopefully, his opportunity will come at West Ham.”
Leads by Example
Paul Simpson, the ex-manager of England Under-19’s said: “He’s a very quiet lad but he impressed me and straight away you could see he had potential.
“He’s one of those players who used to come up to you after training and thank you for the session. He was a quiet lad but led by example. I can’t think of a time when Aji didn’t stay behind to work on his heading. It meant a lot to him to be involved in the squad.”
John Coleman, the Accrington Stanley manager spoke of his desire to sign Alese permanently following a loan spell at the club. He said: “If I had the opportunity to sign him on a permanent, I would have done, but West Ham didn’t want to sell him. We didn’t want to sign him on loan again — we’d be developing him for someone else.
“There’s not many left-sided centre-backs and they’re in demand right now. The good thing about Aji is he is capable of playing left-back. If I had signed him on a permanent deal, I would have developed him as a full-back.
Premier League 2 Goal of the Season
Last season Alese won the PL2 Goal of the Season award for an outstanding solo effort away at Swansea City. Intercepting the ball in his own half, Alese proceeded to head towards the opposition goal fending off several attempts to tackle him. Reaching the penalty box he held off another challenge before finishing calmly.
Watch the goal here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Lugn302KvI
Speaking following receiving the award, Alese spoke to whufc.com. He said: “It’s a great achievement to win the Premier League 2 Goal of the Season. There were a lot of great goals nominated so to be chosen over those is a big honour.
“We’ve done really well this season too so, for me personally to come out of the campaign with something to show for it, is a nice feeling. It’s probably the best goal I’ve ever scored so it means a lot that the delegates have seen that and voted for it. Hopefully, I do it again in the future and I can get even more goals!”
England Under-20 International With Europa League Experience
Aji Alese may not be a player everyone is familiar with; however, he does have experience at domestic first-team and international levels. Along with two spells on loan from West Ham at Accrington Stanley and Cambridge United, Alese has played at every level for England between Under-16 and Under-20.
Last season he was included in many first-team West Ham squads although he did not feature in the Premier League. He did play the full 90 minutes for the Hammers as they beat Hull City 5-1 in the EFL Cup. He also made an appearance in the Europa League against Dinamo Zagreb.
Alex Neil on His New Signing
Sunderland head coach Alex Neil spoke to safc.com shortly after his latest signing was announced. He said: “Aji is left-footed and he’s really quick. I like having balance in my team and he was at a stage whereby he was really pushing to get into West Ham’s first team, so we felt it was a really good fit for us.
“More and more, I think young lads are realising that they need to get on the pitch and show what they can do. It is important that Aji comes here, shows his quality and gets into the team. That will be up to him, but he has already shown an appetite to play. And the qualities that he brings are ones that I think we needed to add to the squad.”