“Like a Rolls-Royce in midfield” and so good “he could have been playing in slippers” were some of the glowing terms used to describe Wales’ teenage sensation Ethan Ampadu on his competitive debut for the Dragons on Thursday night.
Ryan Giggs’ new-look young side thrashed the Republic of Ireland 4-1 at the Cardiff City Stadium to get their UEFA Nations League campaign off to a flying start.
The Republic had earned a 1-0 win at the same venue 11 months ago, which saw them book a place in the European play-offs for the World Cup at Wales’ expense.
But Giggs has replaced Chris Coleman since then and has a fresh new crop of emerging talent at his disposal. One of the brightest stars is Chelsea’s Ampadu – who shone on his competitive debut, having twice appeared in friendlies at the end of 2017.
Ampadu can play in midfield or in defence and was magnificent in Wales’ mammoth win, with the 17-year-old looking at ease on the international stage and instigating the third goal – outmuscling Jonathan Walters before advancing and playing a superb pass to Aaron Ramsey who scored to put Wales in control on the stroke of half time.
Giggs predicted a bright future for Ampadu after the game and former Ireland internationals Phil Babb and Keith Andrews were hugely impressed by what they saw from the former Exeter City player.
Babb, the former Liverpool defender, said: “He’s got composure beyond his years. The world is his oyster. I think Maurizio Sarri has to look at him and say ‘wow – what a player I’ve got here’.
“He could have been playing in slippers, he was that good.”
“He was like a Rolls-Royce in midfield,” added former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Andrews.
“It was a big call to leave Joe Ledley out but it shows the confidence Ryan Giggs has in him.”
Ampadu made seven first-team appearances for Chelsea under Antonio Conte last season and featured prominently during pre-season under Sarri but has yet to play under the new boss in the league.
“He has so much awareness when picking the ball and where to go,” added Andrews.
“When the full-backs went forward, he dropped back into the defence and doesn’t make rash decisions when in critical areas of the pitch.
“He’s got the build, the physique. Where is he going to play? I’d say if he’s that good in possession he’ll stroll it in midfield.”
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