Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou could unearth his club’s new Kristoffer Ajer in Hearts defender John Souttar amid a recent transfer update.
According to Lancashire Live, both the Hoops and Scottish Premiership rivals Rangers are in the mix to sign the Scotland international, although it’s a team south of the border who are currently at the front of the queue.
It’s claimed that Championship side Stoke City are in pole position right now to land the central defender who is out of contract in the summer and could well be sold in the January transfer window.
When Ajer was in his pomp at Celtic Park, there was nothing quite like the sight of seeing the marauding Norwegian carry the ball from defence and powering past players with ease.
Speaking earlier last season, former Scotland boss Alex McLeish said: “I go back to that St Johnstone game, you see sometimes when it’s not going for Celtic and the game’s in its dying embers, and then all of a sudden you see Ajer striding up the pitch trying to inspire like Roy of the Rovers.
“Running from defence, augment the attack and then it leads to a goal – these are inspirational moments and he is an inspirational, influential player for Celtic. Like Virgil van Dijk, he came to Celtic and we all know what happened next.”
While Souttar may not be cut from the same physical cloth as the big Norwegian, he certainly has some of the strength, tenacity and ball-playing ability that marked out Ajer as a top talent.
Former Hearts boss Craig Levein once waxed lyrical about the defender and hailed his development at the club, saying: “I’ve known him since he was 12 years old and he’s just got better and better. When he came here from Dundee Utd, we just needed to give him time. He’s grown into the player that I hoped he would be and for me he’s the best centre back in Scotland.
“Just for the fact that he can do wonderful things. His passing of the ball Saturday was fantastic, but he is also now capable physically of competing with any centre forward. His pace is very, very good and he’s strong, focused and aggressive.”
As per Whoscored, his 77.9% pass accuracy is the second-best of any Hearts defender this season in the Scottish Premiership, while his 59.1 passes per game is the second-best among any of his teammates, regardless of position – exactly the kind of modern-day defender Ange will surely be looking for.
The 6 foot 1 defender could be exactly the kind of dominant, ball-playing centre-back at Celtic Park that Ajer once was.