With clubs set to circle for Celtic star Kristoffer Ajer, a replacement is going to be needed.
Suffice it to say, Stephen Welsh will improve in the future. Christopher Jullien will be fit at some stage next season. Yes, we’ve been defensively poor in 20-21, but there is hope for a future even without Ajer. Undoubtedly though, those two aren’t enough on their own.
With that in mind, the Celtic board will need to be shrewd. The recruitment staff will have to consider their successes and failures, which markets to exploit and what to avoid. For example, we haven’t had much joy out of signings from England in recent years.
We have, though, signed excellent Frenchmen, and used the Eredivisie for scouting talent. There’s a centre-back who ticks both of those boxes, and his name is Olivier Boscagli.
Celtic ought to look at PSV star Olivier Boscagli
Olivier Boscagli has starred for PSV Eindhoven this season. The Netherlands’ second-placed side have one of the best defences in the Eredivisie [Sky Sports], conceding 26 times in 24 matches.
The Frenchman is, of course, part of an incredible generation of French talent. It’s feasible that he never gets a cap for his national team, despite being an excellent option.
In direct comparison with Kristoffer Ajer, his stats are considerable. If we consider Ajer’s attributes to be passing, interceptions and running with the ball, then let’s put Boscagli and Ajer head-to-head [all stats via WhoScored?].
Ajer averages 1.4 interceptions per 90 in league action. Boscagli averages 2.8. In terms of passing, Ajer averages a fantastic 88% completion, Boscagli isn’t too far behind with 82%.
Ajer attempts 0.7 dribbles per 90, Boscagli 0.3. However, Boscagli averages 1.5 tackles per game, Ajer 1.3. Boscagli is also superior in blocking the ball, 0.2 ahead of Ajer.
That enough stats? Probably, yes. The point here is that their games are very similar. Boscagli is rated at £3.6m by Transfermarkt; Ajer’s value is exactly the same. Key difference, though: Boscagli has always been a defender, and has the education and instincts that the Norwegian is still learning.
Here’s something else that links the duo: this key bit of info, which shows Ajer’s value in European terms. Boscagli is right up there with the former Killie loanee in terms of successful passes, which indicates his abilities as a ball-playing centre-back. That’s an important criteria if we need to replace Ajer.
Boscagli is also a noted U23 interceptor, bizarrely trailing Hamilton’s Hakeem Odoffin [Not the Old Firm].
His all-round defensive game makes Boscagli a valuable asset for PSV Eindhoven. But they’re also playing at the Europa League level, and Celtic might represent a gateway to bigger things, should the Frenchman want that.
No disrespect to PSV, of course, who are probably about the same level as Celtic. But Celtic’s worldwide reach is far greater. There’d be far more eyes on the French youngster if he were to replace Kristoffer Ajer, whose contract runs out in 2022. There seems little doubt that the Norwegian will move for big money.
But if some of that money is used to sign Olivier Boscagli, we might find ourselves with a net positive. The boy’s clearly a talent, and fits the profile of a Celtic signing.
If he’s not already on Celtic’s shopping list, we’d be amazed.