Shades of van Dijk: the case for Kristoffer Ajer staying at Celtic

By Euan Davidson

February 19, 2021

Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer and his situation remind of me of the Virgil van Dijk saga.

When the big Dutchman was being linked to all and sundry, I remember writing a pleading open letter [Scottish Comedy FC]. In that letter, I suggested that van Dijk needed another season to fully develop, to be ready for the next challenge. Admittedly, Ajer’s situation is slightly different, but I’m not too proud to beg a second time.

Ok, not beg, as such. What I’m suggesting, a la van Dijk, is that if Ajer signed a new deal, both he and the club would benefit greatly.

Kristoffer Ajer was the definition of raw when he arrived at Celtic [Sky Sports]. For a (IK) start, the Norwegian was a midfielder. His play style wasn’t too dissimilar from Stefan Johansen. Celtic, and Kilmarnock, actually, changed all that. He’s now the league’s best centre-back, and a vital part of this team.

Heavily linked to Europa League opponents AC Milan, the Rossoneri since signed Tomori from Chelsea [Goal]. The Italian giants may come back in from Ajer, but if he signed a new deal, he doesn’t have to honour it. Instead, he could recoup something substantial for the club who made him the player he is, while enjoying another year to develop at a massive club.

Is it a scenario that’s beyond the realms of possibility? Possibly not.

Former Celtic star Virgil van Dijk / (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

What Kristoffer Ajer brings to Celtic

Has Kristoffer Ajer been perfect for Celtic this season? No, absolutely not; when the Bhoys concede ridiculous set piece goals, he’s as culpable as anyone.

He’s also been caught out by teams who are quick on the break. However, he’s still stood out during a year when so many of our squad have shown little fight.

Courageous in the tackle, with an excellent read on the game, Ajer makes light work of most Scottish forwards. For his height, his technique is stellar, and his concentration and ability to sniff out danger make him valuable to Neil Lennon. The Norwegian, at 22, could well be ready for a top-5 league, but another year playing for Celtic could make all the difference.

We’ve suggested that offering Kris Ajer the captaincy might help in convincing him to stay. Obviously, we don’t know what that would mean to him. Looking at his reaction to scoring the winning penalty in the Scottish Cup Final, though, it’s impossible to argue he doesn’t care about Celtic Football Club.

That being the case, running down his contract seems like a nightmare option. That’s provided he doesn’t move on in the summer. What would be the most disappointing scenario, though, is a repeat of the van Dijk situation; going to a mid-table side in a top-5 league, then being sold on for Silly Money a couple of years down the line.

With Ajer’s potential, we’re not suggesting he’s the next van Dijk. But there’s nobody who can honestly suggest they thought the Dutchman would end up being the best defender in world football. The similarities here are eerie; both maraud forward in possession, both are tidy on the ball, and both have outstanding defensive instincts.

All we’re saying is: Kris, if you’re reading this, mate, sign an extension. Go on. It’ll be fun. Do it.

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