Mike Ashley should dig a little deeper into his pockets to fund a successful move for Newcastle United to sign Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer this summer.
According to the Daily Mail, the Toon are readying an £8m offer for Ajer as they look to play on Celtic’s weakened bargaining position.
Ajer will enter the final 12 months of his £14,000-a-week contract this summer and will be able to begin negotiating free transfers with foreign and cross-border clubs from January.
AC Milan were heavily linked with the Norway international last summer after technical director Paolo Maldini confirmed the San Siro natives’ interest, but Ajer was denied a move as Celtic considered him to be a key player.
The Hoops value Ajer highly yet are aware that his current deal leaves the Scottish giants at risk of losing the 22-year-old for a fraction of their asking price, which is thought to be close to £35m.
Newcastle have held a long-standing interest in the 6 ft 6 enforcer, although the St James’ Park natives are aware of the need to secure their Premier League status in order to present an attractive destination in the off-season.
Steve Bruce’s position at the helm is not thought to affect United’s interest in Ajer, who the Toon believe will have a wealth of suitors in the next transfer window.
This summer looks set to be the end of Ajer’s time at Celtic as the defender has relentlessly been urged to quit Parkhead and join a more competitive division by the Norway setup.
Head coach Stale Solbakken told Norwegian newspaper VG earlier this month: “He has to change league now. He does not have enough challenges in everyday life there.
“Therefore, I think he has got some habits, which you do not notice until he meets better opposition in international matches or Europe. So, I think that is a smart move by him.”
Former Fulham defender Brede Hangeland, now an assist coach for the Norwegian national side, has allegedly told Ajer several times that he needs to change clubs to find a bigger challenge, too.
However, it would be expected that Celtic would reject Newcastle’s approach for Ajer if the Toon only present an £8m bid to offer the defender a taste of Premier League football this summer, should they stay up.
Celtic held firm against interest from AC Milan last year when they were only said to value Ajer at £25m, while rumours also surfaced of interest from Arsenal and Leicester City – who would be expected to present the promise of another year of European football.
Newcastle will not have the allure of Champions League or Europa League action to impress the centre-back, so Ashley may have to dig a little deeper into his pockets and present not only the funds Celtic are demanding but also a contract which carries a significant pay rise.
Doing so would see the United owner, who is not thought to be planning on bankrolling deals, land the Magpies a promising young centre-back who already has an amazing skill set, as noted by interim Celtic boss John Kennedy, who said last month [via quotes shared by The Scotsman]:
“I’ve no doubt that there will be interest in him. He’s still very young and he’s an international player. With his profile of speed, size, technique and ability – there’s going to be interest in him.
“He’s a great character and a leader, in terms of how he works and conducts himself. We know he’s a good footballer, but we’ve always tried to work on his aggression the box. That didn’t come naturally to him as a kid, but he’s got it in his game now.”