Kristoffer Ajer could end up a Celtic hero if he stays
So, Kristoffer Ajer isn’t every Celtic fan’s favourite.
He’s popular, generally speaking. But there are plenty who have watched his inability to defend corners and sighed. Or, when the Bhoys have been caught out on the counter-attack. Putting it in simple terms, Ajer featured most often in a defence that just wasn’t particularly good throughout 20-21.
With his contract ending in 2022, he’s been repeatedly criticised. It’s always difficult for players linked with moves away, as Ajer has been for a considerable length of time. Just like Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie, it can put players in a different light. Their mistakes will earn more scorn, their good performances will be in the context of “wanting a move”.
Yet, there hasn’t actually been a whole lot from Ajer himself throughout a season of speculation. If anything, Ajer hasn’t ruled himself out of staying at Celtic long term [Record].
Call this hyperbole if you will, but there’s the makings of a really top player in Kristoffer Ajer. In some scenarios, yes, he struggles from lacking the formal education of a centre-back. Perhaps it’s not his most natural position. Still, few in 19-20 were making that argument when the Norwegian formed a solid partnership with Christopher Jullien. Having to play around a revolving cast this season has undoubtedly impacted the international defender.
Imagining a scenario where Kristoffer Ajer signs a new deal
Look, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Eddie Howe has some pulling power. As we’ve discussed, and even John Hartson alluded to, Howe has a great record of garnering loyalty from his players.
Admittedly, it’s a tricky scenario. Losing Ajer for nothing, rather than selling him for a possible £16m, isn’t something Celtic can really afford to do. But is he really a lost cause in terms of a new contract? There’s really very little to suggest that being the case.
If he did stay, and fulfilled his undoubted potential, we’re talking about an absolute star player here. At just 23, Kristoffer Ajer has at least 10 more years of being a top-class centre-back. If he’s able to iron out some of the more glaring deficiencies in his game, he’ll be absolutely golden. A tough tackler, with pace to burn, as well as a fantastic range of passing, Ajer could well become the archetypal modern ball-playing centre-back.
That’s the kind of talent we need to have around. And while the rebuild is talked about in increasingly loud tones, a fire-sale of potentially excellent talents wouldn’t exactly help us out. Fallacies about “effort” and commitment to the cause without actually knowing how a player feels are just conjecture.
Maybe it’s outlandish. However, there’s enough of Ajer’s performances for Celtic overall to suggest he could turn out to be an absolute hero for the Bhoys. What happens next is up to him.
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