Losing Kristoffer Ajer could spell disaster for Celtic
According to The Scottish Sun, Celtic centre-back Kristoffer Ajer is the subject of interest from Zenit St.Petersburg, with the report pinpointing the 21-year-old as a £12 million target for the Russian heavyweights.
Zenit, who have already made the headlines this summer with the £40 million acquisition of Brazilian sensation Malcom from Barcelona, are seemingly on the lookout for a few defensive options in the market and Ajer is high on their wishlist. (h/t Scottish Sun)
However, Celtic are in no mood to part ways with the highly-rated youngster and the Hoops have already slapped a big price tag on his head to ward off interest, causing the Russians to baulk at their valuation.
The report suggests that Zenit aren’t prepared to meet Celtic’s financial demands and the deal is on the verge of collapsing, with the two clubs some way apart in their valuation of the Norwegian centre-back.
Ajer, who rose to prominence with Start in the top-flight back in hos homeland Norway, made the move to Celtic back in January 2016.
After making first professional debut for the Hoops in the 2016-17 season, he was loaned out to Kilmarnock for the second half of the campaign in order to gain more first-team exposure.
The youngster, though, has since returned to Parkhead, where he has successfully established himself as one of the mainstays of the club’s backline over the past couple of campaigns.
The 10-cap Norwegian international has amassed a total of 76 appearances for the reigning Scottish champions in all competitions till date, scoring thrice in the process.
Zenit’s interest in Ajer comes as little surprise after the Norwegian’s stellar run of form early in the season. Besides his usual high standards in the domestic league, the 21-year-old has also proven his mettle to cut the mustard in European competitions, producing some fine displays in the qualifying rounds.
Despite primarily being a centre-back, Ajer has filled in admirably at right-back this term for the Hoops due to lack of depth in the ranks, thus emphasizing his value to the team as a versatile young defender with the potential to evolve into a stalwart in the years to come.
To put things into perspective, Celtic are under no pressure to get Ajer off their books, given that he has a contract at Parkhead until the summer of 2022. With that in mind, the Hoops have every reason to play hardball with Zenit over the price tag of one of the brightest young prospects in their ranks.
With that in mind, the Hoops have every reason to play hardball with Zenit over the price tag of one of the brightest young prospects in their ranks.
Furthermore, losing Ajer so early in the campaign could potentially spell disaster for the Hoops, who are already short of options at the back following the departure of Mikael Lustig, Kieran Tierney, Dedryck Boyata, Filip Benkovic, Cristian Gamboa and Emilio Izaguirre earlier in the window.
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They have brought in the likes of Hatem Abd Elhamed, Christopher Jullien and Bolingoli-Mbombo to plug the voids at the back.
While the new signings have made an impact to varying degrees, parting ways with Ajer, who is already an established presence at the back, would only compound their problems later on in the campaign.
That said, Celtic should keep hold of the Norwegian starlet at all costs.