Steve Bruce should allow Norwich City to sign Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, after Daniel Farke’s Premier League-bound Canaries joined the emerging race for Newcastle United’s summer target.
According to CaughtOffside, Norwich have informed Celtic of their desire to secure a deal for Ajer as the Premiership giants prepare to cash in.
The Hoops have warmed to allowing the Norway international to leave Parkhead at the end of the season as he will enter the final year of his current Hoops contract in June.
His situation is thought to also be of interest to Newcastle, after the Toon approached Celtic to discuss Ajer’s situation recently.
Both Newcastle and Norwich are claimed to have a keen interest in securing Ajer’s signature in the off-season, with the 23-year-old able to operate in central defence as well as at right-back and in a holding midfield role.
The Magpies were previously linked with preparing an £8m assault on Glasgow for Ajer, who Celtic believe is worth closer to £35m but are in a weakened position due to the limited time remaining on his £14,000-per-week terms.
Newcastle anticipated competition would arrive for Ajer and are aware that having Premier League status will be key in any negotiations, which Norwich secured last week and will now contend with Watford for the Championship title.
A clutch of unnamed clubs are also said to have approached Celtic to enquire over Ajer’s availability, and it remains to be seen if AC Milan revisit the 21-cap defender’s situation after Technical Director Paolo Maldini confirmed the Serie A side’s interest last summer.
Newcastle may struggle to secure Ajer’s services for the previously reported fee that Bruce’s side were preparing to submit if Norwich and fellow suitors arrive on the scene, especially with interest from Italy noted and prior links with Arsenal and Leicester City.
But United missing out on the 6 ft 5 man mountain may not be the end of the world for Bruce, as Ajer has been highly criticised for his efforts in Celtic’s ill-fated attempt at winning a 10th Premiership title in a row.
Ajer has been a fixture of the Hoops backline this season, with the 23-year-old starting 30 of his 31 appearances and only missing two fixtures after being forced to go into quarantine, but was unable to prevent results going astray and Rangers winning the title.
Even still, the Daily Record quoted Ajer as claiming last month: “If I am only to look at my performances, it may have been my best season at the club.”
His comment left former Celtic striker Frank McAvennie irate, telling Football Insider: “He flung his teammates under the bus.”
He added: “The manager will want rid of him; he hasn’t done anything. Ajer doesn’t even want to head the ball, so he has to go and play in Italy or Germany where they play with it at the back. Celtic need someone who can go and win the ball and he’s not the man to do that.”
Newcastle will likely need to sign a defender capable of winning the ball frequently in the summer, with Bruce’s side ranking 18th of the 20 Premier League clubs for the least shots allowed per game (14.6) and 15th for successful tackles (13.8) this season, per WhoScored.
Clearly, it remains to be seen if Ajer is that man, meaning Bruce can avoid a summer swoop and allow Norwich to seal a deal if the newly promoted Canaries persist with their interest.