Celtic great Johan Mjallby has been singing the praises of Hoops defender Kristoffer Ajer.

The Norwegian centre back has had a breakthrough season in Glasgow. Despite initially breaking into the side back in December 2017, Ajer has really kicked on and arguably has become the club’s number one defender.

He’s had a fantastic 41 appearances for club and country this season, and has become one of our most reliable players. His dominance in the air is matched by his composure on the ball. Regardless of whether it’s Simeon Jackson or Alfredo Morelos he’s up against, Ajer has proven he can bully them all.

Kristoffer Ajer has become a leader this season? (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Mjallby isn’t surprised by the development of him either. Speaking in the Scotsman, he revealed that he’s been waiting for this kind of breakthrough from the young Norwegian.

“I’ve seen a lot of him and I’ve actually been waiting on him exploding, to a certain degree. He caught my eye when he started to play.

“Now he’s got more experience and he’s probably maturing a lot as well. He’s got every chance of becoming a top, top player some day.

 

“It’s important for Kristoff as he’s so young to improve his leadership qualities before he’s contemplating going to another league. He could definitely follow the same path as Van Dijk if he stays. He’s got every chance.”

Sky is the limit for Ajer

It’s easy to forget that Ajer is only 20. He has the class and composure of someone almost 10 years older, and he’s therefore turned out to be a stunning acquisition from the club.

The next step for him is to start stepping up in Europe. Celtic, as a football club, haven’t been impressive on the European scene for too long. Defensive mistakes are often at the heart of this, although Dedryck Boyata and Craig Gordon can often take most of the blame for that.

Ajer was sensational in Valencia, and could do with more standout performances in Europe (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

But Ajer has yet to seriously stand out in European competition the way he does domestically. It can be argued that his performances in Europe are a good barometer of where he truly is as a player right now.

But the sky is most certainly the limit for him. He has no right being as developed as he is at his young age. He’s popping up with vital blocks, crucial challenges, and is showing consistent leadership at the back.

It’s no wonder Mjallby rated him so highly. Could he therefore emulate Van Dijk? Why not?