Celtic star Kris Ajer slammed home the penalty that secured the quadruple-treble yesterday and cemented his place in Parkhead folklore.
Indeed, the Norwegian centre-back was the big hero against Hearts at Hampden. Not only did he score the penalty, but he was one of our most influential performers. Operating at right-back, Hearts couldn’t deal with him for the majority of the game.
His gallops up and down the right side have become something of a revelation in recent games. But it’s just yet another developing aspect to a player previously unknown when signed by Ronny Deila back in 2016.
It’s so easy to forget that it was Ronny who gifted Ajer to Parkhead. It was he who spotted his countryman and saw the potential within him. It was a deal that saw him arrive from Norwegian side Start. And it was a deal that actually only cost a small fee of £650k (Daily Record).
Granted, Deila didn’t have the chance to develop him personally. That was more down to Brendan Rodgers who threw him into the side in late 2017. But it was Ronny who spotted he was worth having.
Yet it’s fair to say Ajer hasn’t always been adored by everyone in the Celtic support. This has mainly come from lackadaisical errors at the back that have come from a variety of factors. Whether it be rashness with the challenge, his passing out from the back, or poor positional awareness – Ajer has made plenty of mistakes.
However, it’s also easy to forget what age he is. The young centre-back is only 22 – the same age as Conor Hazard. In addition to that, he started off his career as a midfielder. He hasn’t always been a centre-back, and that has to be remembered when he makes an error.
Ajer has had to play several positions for Celtic
This is a position he’s only been playing in for the last few years. He hasn’t grown up learning his trade as a defender. Yet still, he continues to lead Celtic to history.
Since coming back from an initial loan spell at Kilmarnock in 2017, Ajer has only lost one domestic trophy. He’s been a massive part of the quadruple treble – featuring in 154 matches for the Hoops in total (Transfermarkt). He’s also had to work alongside a host of different partners too.
Dedryck Boyata, Jozo Simunovic, and Chris Jullien are just some of the different teammates Ajer has had to play with. The Norwegian has been the one constant and he hasn’t been given the deserved recognition for that.
He was at the heart of the superb double-treble success. A rock under both Rodgers and Lennon during the treble-treble achievement. And, what’s been his greatest achievement to date – the quadruple-treble.
Ajer also played in every match during last season’s sensational Europa League run. He was a stand-out on two occasions against Lazio and shined against Rennes and Cluj too.
For a 22-year-old, his development has been sensational when you think back to the young unknown Norwegian talent who arrived four-and-a-half years ago. Not to mention his versatility has been an incredible bonus.
It’s just essential to remember where Ajer has come from to where he is now. When it comes to successful Celtic deals, Ajer’s is right up there as one of our greatest in years. Rodgers did his bit as has Lennon in bringing him on. But when you take it back to the start, we have Ronny to thank for bringing him in the first place.
When Ajer rattled home that penalty yesterday, it only strengthened how key a player he’s been for us.