Friday, July 1, 2022

Southampton Looking To Win Battle For This Celtic Defensive Ace: Perfect Replacement For van Dijk?

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Bishwaraj Bhattacharyya
Former athlete. Now a journalist hoping to cover football no matter the league or country.

Out of all the youngsters thriving in the Celtic team, Kristoffer Ajer certainly has been one of the most impressive. At just 19, he has already carved out a starting team spot under Brendan Rodgers and has appeared in 26 games this season alone. And just like any rising starlet in any top-flight European league, Ajer too has caught the attention of some of the continent’s elites. Southampton have expressed heavy interest in the youngster and plans to snap him up in the summer transfer window.

Ajer is a versatile defensive ace who can play in both centre-back and holding midfield roles. Rodgers has fielded the youngsters mostly in the Hoops backline and on the right-back position on a couple of occasions. Ajer started his career with Rælingen FK and later signed into the youth side of Lillestrøm SK, aged 10. He made his professional debut with another Norwegian outfit, IK Start and later became the youngest captain in the Eliteserien at the tender age of just 16.

After undergoing a week-long trial at the Glasgow Stadium, Ajer signed with the Celts in February 2016 on a four-year contract for a meagre £500,000 transfer fee.

He developed himself into the pace of the Scottish football after the second half of the 2016/17 season with Kilmarnock and making 17 appearances. The 19-year-old has also been capped at the international level for Norway, 35 times for the youth sides and twice for the senior team.

Standing at 6 feet 5 inches, Ajer is a towering figure but in no condition slow. His athletic figure helps him cover the pitch with ease. His composure and maturity are some of his key traits which have helped him succeed at such a young age.

Ajer does have a few shortcomings, which need to be addressed but nothing that cannot be improved with time. He still needs to put some time in the weight room if he wants to take his game to the levels of some of the world’s best like Vincent Kompany and Virgil van Dijk.

The latter is one of the success stories to have hailed from Celtic and Ajer follow into the Dutchman’s shoes and join up the Saints backline. The Premier League outfit could do with some help next season, judging by the one they are witnessing right now.

Ever since van Dijk departed for Liverpool January, they seem to have become even more vulnerable at the back and additions in the summer are necessary. Given their current condition, a player like Ajer can be the perfect player to strengthen their backline.

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