Newcastle could sign their own version of England international Harry Maguire in Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer this summer.
Reports in recent weeks have suggested that the Magpies are very much interested in signing the 23-year-old, with The Northern Echo then revealing that Steve Bruce is keen to kick off his side’s summer business with a move for the 6 foot 6 titan.
It was said that “with Newcastle having sent a series of scouting delegations to watch the Norwegian this season, the Magpies’ interest is currently understood to be at a much more advanced stage.”
The Athletic have now delivered the latest update on the situation, claiming that the centre-back had started off as Newcastle’s first-choice transfer target in central defence, and that “while they have not yet given up hope of signing the 23-year-old they have scouted extensively, both Norwich City and Bayer Leverkusen are pursuing the Norway international.”
With Maguire all set to lead out England’s back-line in tonight’s Euro 2020 quarter-final clash against Ukraine, Newcastle will be wondering the kind of impact a dominant figure like the Manchester United centre-back could have on the Magpies’ defence.
In Ajer, they could get someone who could have a similar presence.
Speaking earlier this season, former Scotland boss Alex McLeish said: “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.”
The 23-year-old’s Celtic team-mate and centre-back partner Christopher Jullien hailed him as a “unique talent“, and it’s no surprise given his combination of size and elegance on the ball when he brings it out from the back.
As per WhoScored, he averaged a whopping 71.4 passes per game in the Scottish Premiership last season, as well as boasting a formidable 88.2% pass accuracy – both of those stats being significantly better than the figures produced by any Newcastle player.
In fact, Ajer’s stats on the ball are far more comparable with Maguire, with the Manchester United defender averaging 65.5 passes per game at an accuracy of 87.3% in the 2020/21 Premier Leaue.
Of course, both Ajer and Maguire play for club sides who look to dominate the ball, but the possible arrival of the Norwegian on Tyneside this summer would give the Magpies the quality ball-playing centre-back for which Bruce is reportedly desperate, even with Fabian Schar already at the club.
In other news, Chris Waugh drops an exciting Newcastle transfer update!