When the summer transfer window opens in a matter of weeks, Celtic are going to have a huge task on their hands.
This will be one of the biggest rebuilds in the Hoops’ history with a plethora of players set to be sold and a number of others heading back to their parent clubs.
If the imperious Norwegian left Paradise behind it would represent a huge blow to their chances of narrowing the gap to Rangers.
After all, he has been a shining example to others, holding together a particularly abject defence.
Celtic conceded 16 more goals than Rangers in the Premiership this term so they could do with strengthening that area.
Ajer leaving would be a poor start to that but they could find a very similar player by targeting Micky van de Ven.
The 20-year-old hasn’t been linked with Celtic at the time of writing but after assessing his playstyle, we’ve concluded that he’d be perfect for replacing their towering Norwegian.
Van de Ven currently plays for Volendam in the second-tier of Dutch football where he captains the side. He’s had a very impressive campaign, winning the Best Talent award for his displays throughout 2020/21.
Standing at 6 foot 3, he’s just three inches shorter of Ajer but the way in which he plays is the spitting image.
In a thread on Twitter, Scouted Football wrote: “Suggested elsewhere that Van de Ven would be a really interesting/exciting option for Celtic. May need time to settle but suits him as the next step, and not even sure it would need a seven-figure fee to get him. One of the best options in that market.”
Representing a bargain in the market, there’d be fewer players more equipped to replace Ajer than Van de Ven.
Like the Norway international, he has a big frame that can overwhelm players while he’s also vibrant in possession of the ball.
Scouted Football added: “But where Van de Ven really excels/excites is on the ball, more specifically as a progressive ball-carrier. Volendam facilitate it (questions about portability to higher levels too) but his ability to drive from deep is extraordinary.”
Out of context, that could quite easily describe Ajer.
He is the very definition of a marauding centre-half, something we saw against Rangers a few weeks ago when the defender tip-toed his way past several players inside the area before getting a shot away. He also attempted a typically striking 40-yard run against Hibernian on the final day.
Assessing footage of Van de Ven, you’ll notice his long strides and long-bursting runs into the opposition half.
He has the confidence, composure, technical coordination to escape pressure; long strides and speed create separation; robust enough to bounce off challenges too. Disruptive and directly leads to valuable situations in attack.https://t.co/d5TK49mRwk
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) May 21, 2021
The modern centre-back is usually capable of playing with the ball at their feet and driving forward but breaking towards the penalty area is particularly rare.
To lose Ajer would be a meaty blow for the incoming Eddie Howe but the young Dutchman in question would be a stellar replacement.
After all, you only need to look at the way Howe progressed Nathan Ake at Bournemouth, turning the defender into a man Manchester City wanted to spend £40m on.
He’s proven himself astute at developing young talent; something Van de Ven should lap up.