An update has emerged on Newcastle target Kristoffer Ajer regarding a potential move away from Celtic.
According to The Telegraph’s John Percy, Brentford are on the verge of signing the 23-year-old for a club-record £13.5m. The structure of the deal has been agreed with the Scottish giants and Ajer now seems set to join the newly-promoted Bees.
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce is said to have identified Ajer as his number one centre-back target this summer and the club held talks with Celtic over a possible deal. However, the Magpies are now set to miss out on the Norway international to one of their Premier League rivals.
Newcastle fans will likely be gutted by this news as Brentford have been able to usurp them and seal a deal for a priority transfer target. This is not a good look for an established Premier League club, as the west Londoners are entering their first year in the division and have been able to outmuscle the Toon Army in this particular pursuit. Whilst it remains to be seen whether or not Newcastle attempted to match their offer, Ajer was a top target for Bruce, and missing out on his signature is certainly a blow.
In the Premier League last season, Paul Dummett’s WhoScored rating of 6.66 was the highest of any centre-back in Bruce’s squad, while Jamaal Lascelles, who turns 28 later this year, is the youngest player at the club in that position. This suggests that Newcastle are in dire need of a quality, young, defender to bolster their squad. Ajer, at 23, could have been exactly what they need.
Speaking in 2020, Alex McLeish labelled Ajer “inspirational” and compared him to former Hoops defender and current Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk.
The 62-year-old told Football Insider: “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.”
Not only does Ajer have youth on his side, but his performances for Celtic were outstanding last season. He averaged an exceptional WhoScored rating of 7.16 in 31 appearances in the Scottish Premiership, winning 3.2 aerial battles and making 3.4 clearances per game.
This shows that he has the ability to be a significant upgrade on Newcastle’s current centre-back options whilst having scope to improve further at 23 years of age, which is why Magpies fans must be disappointed that Mike Ashley has allowed Brentford to win the race for the Norwegian ahead of them.
AND in other news, Newcastle handed boost over £15m “phenomenon”, Bruce will surely be buzzing…