Celtic’s sheer dominance in Scottish football continues even after Rangers’ return to the top flight last season and the famous rivals failed to knock the Hoops down this term as well. The Bhoys, under Brendan Rodgers, clinched an ‘invincible’ domestic treble last season and despite losing out the unbeaten status, they are on course of repeating the same after winning the League Cup, closing on to have the confirmation of seventh successive Premiership triumph and are now distinctly favourites against their age-old rivals in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final.
Rodgers, the ex-Liverpool boss, has groomed an array of youngsters who have stepped up and shone for the first-team in the absence of several veterans and teenager Kristoffer Ajer is the one who has been a revelation in Celtic defence throughout the campaign.
Ajer, the 19-year-old Norwegian, earned his maiden senior cap last month as a reward of his sensational form and is now featuring regularly irrespective of Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic’s availability. He was acquired from Tippeligaen outfit Start following a one-week successful trial arranged by the former boss Ronny Deila back in January 2016 and the gaffer did not make further delay to recruit the gifted countryman.
He was then loaned to Premiership counterparts Kilmarnock which helped him to get accustomed to the aggressive nature of Scottish football and flourish in new surroundings to fit in Rodgers’ plan. Ajer has undeniably exceeded the expectations and is now on the radar of German giants Borussia Dortmund as well as multiple Premier League outfits.
If reports are believed to be true, Southampton, currently fighting for a top-flight survival, are also chasing the signing of the youngster irrespective of their Premier League fate. They have raided the Parkhead side previously on several occasions and the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, and Fraser Forster are performing with distinction in Europe’s most enticing football league.
Although the player is under contract until summer 2020, the club is working on a new long-term deal for the starlet to tie him down and fend off the interest of several admirers. Rodgers is working on an exciting football project and despite having certain restrictions, the Northern Irishman has accepted the challenge of working on a shoestring and groom youngsters to flourish beyond Scotland.
They were once an admirable European force but lost the charm due to financial inferiority since the introduction of billions of investment. Yet, promoting the academy graduates and scouting accomplished youngsters reflect the strong foundation of the club who are still lauded for their football heritage across the globe.
Celtic, meanwhile, must keep hold of Ajer for at least a few more season and dispatch a strong message of intent to the other clubs of Europe. The youngster joined the Hoops for a tiny fee of £650,000 and will be looking to make a monumental profit in such an inflated transfer market. The 6’5″ centre-back, unfalteringly, will earn even more attention in next couple of years, but the club must not give up this soon and utilize him, along with other prodigies, to move upward in European competitions.
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