After impressing Ronny Deila on a week-long trial at Celtic back in January of 2016, the Norwegian manager’s decision to recommend that the Bhoys offer Kristoffer Ajer a long-term deal at Parkhead proved to be something of a masterstroke by the 46-year-old
Indeed, after the Hoops paid IK Start £540k for the centre-back’s services the following summer, the 17-year-old did not take long to establish himself as a first-team regular at Celtic Park, making 34 appearances in 2017/18, featuring in 45 fixtures in 2018/19 and playing 50 games in 2019/20.
However, it was undoubtedly over his 35 Premiership outings in 2020/21 that the £15.3m-rated defender well and truly cemented his place as one of the best centre-backs in Scotland, helping his side keep 17 clean sheets, scoring two goals and registering three assists, as well as making an average of 1.5 interceptions, 1.2 tackles, 3.3 clearances, 64.8 passes and winning 5.7 duels per game.
These returns saw the Norway international who Neil Lennon dubbed both “outstanding” and “faultless” earn a quite remarkable seasonal SofaScore match rating of 7.15, ranking him as Celtic’s seventh-best player in the top flight of Scottish football last time out.
As such, it was perhaps no surprise that a number of Premier League teams were reported to be interested in the 23-year-old – who Alex McLeish once dubbed Celtic’s “Roy of the Rovers” – last summer, before the Scandinavian sensation went on to seal a £14.13m move to Brentford – being awarded a five-year deal on a reported £35k-per-week.
And, while losing a player as talented as Ajer will have undoubtedly come as a gutting blow to Ange Postecoglou, when considering the fact that the Hoops sold the defender for 2517% more than their initial outlay on the Norwegian, it is abundantly clear that Delia struck gold when advising Celtic to hand the centre-back a deal at Parkhead.