Lee Clark remains in sheer awe of "unbelievable" Celtic talent Kristoffer Ajer
Former Kilmarnock manager Lee Clark has expressed his sheer admiration for Celtic centre-back Kristoffer Ajer.
Clark gave Ajer his big break when he took the Norwegian to Kilmarnock on a six-month loan deal back in January 2017. Ajer operated in midfield for the Ayrshire side, bagging 17 appearances in his first regular taste of Scottish football [Transfermarkt].
It was that experience as a midfielder that helped Ajer develop as a ball-playing centre-back at Celtic. Brendan Rodgers immediately threw him into his backline in the 2017/18 campaign, and Ajer has since gone on to become a quadruple-treble winner with the Hoops.
However, his time in Glasgow could be coming to an end. He’s into the final year of his contract, with reports that Newcastle and Bayer Leverkusen are interested in signing him [Glasgow Times]. And as Clark urged boyhood club Newcastle to go “all in” for Ajer, he couldn’t help his continued admiration for the Celtic star.
“A player who will do anything to get to the very top”
Speaking on the NUFC Matters Youtube Channel, Clark said: “He is an outstanding player. I have seen quotes of £6-8million out there – he is definitely a player you can improve and he will be worth a lot more than that. When we had him at Kilmarnock he used to play centre-mid with Sean [Longstaff], I had the two of them in there.
“He is an unbelievable professional – he was captain of Norway when he was still a teenager. He is six foot six inches and is the type of player who always wants to stay back and do that bit extra. And for the price, there is a lot of ability there. There’s some rawness and some rough edges that need smoothed out.
“There were a lot of clubs out there who didn’t want to take a risk on Virgil Van Dijk because he played in the Scottish league and didn’t get tested. There are similarities. This is a player who could become a real asset for Newcastle United. He is a player who will do anything to get to the very top.”
Lee Clarke prove precisely why Celtic shouldn’t sell Kristoffer Ajer on the cheap
I’ve been banging on the same drum for weeks and will continue to do so. Selling Ajer for anywhere near £6m or £8m is an absolute no-go. It’s an insult to our own intelligence. He’s a player that’s worth far more than that.
I’m not talking about if he was signed up to a long-term contract either. Ajer is an experienced international with substantial European football to his name. Whoever gets him isn’t getting a 22-year-old with potential. They’re getting an already fully-fledged superstar who, with bit more coaching, can be whatever he wants to be.
People tend to forget the mistakes Virgil van Dijk made at Celtic. Because of his success with Southampton and Liverpool, people think he left Parkhead as the perfect footballing specimen. He was anything but. A few years of development with top-class players and he was at that level, however.
Ajer is at a similar stage. Had we won 10-in-a-row, I believe his critics would look at him differently. They would idolise him as the hero he should still be deemed as being. He’s done plenty for this football club just as we’ve done plenty for his own development.
Clarke’s surprise regarding the fees mentioned is only further proof that we shouldn’t be doing any deal like that. Ajer is worth at least double what’s been mentioned. It’s no wonder Celtic are reportedly demanding as much as £16m for him.
We know what we’ve got and we know what he can develop into. Hopefully, we maximise his value when he does depart at some stage this summer.