Newcastle could sign their own Virgil van Dijk in Celtic star Kristoffer Ajer.
Reports in recent weeks have suggested that the Magpies are very much interested in signing the Norway international, but it now appears they are set to face significant transfer competition for him.
According to The Scottish Sun, Norwich are preparing a move for the centre-back, and that they could join Steve Bruce’s side in the race to sign him in the summer.
The report adds that crucially, Ajer favours a switch to the Premier League over Serie A, and that he is ready for a new challenge.
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.”
Standing at an imposing 6 foot 5, Ajer has certainly got the physical presence to match Van Dijk, and just like the Dutchman, he also appears to be a real ball-playing centre-back.
Ajer’s teammate and fellow 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.
Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon said: “Kris is a fantastic player and has pretty much played every minute for me. He has been outstanding, and we have high hopes for him. Kris wants to improve, he is a regular international now, and you have to remember how young he is. He is athletic, good on the ball, good in the air and is an intelligent boy. Kris has all the strings to his bow, he is a real specimen at 21.”
When you look at the kind of influence and impact Van Dijk has had at Liverpool – his arrival sparked triumphs in both the Premier League and Champions League – a dominant centre-half can be the key to taking a team to the next level.
While Ajer isn’t going to be someone to take Newcastle to winning trophies anytime soon, he could help them become a much more formidable defence and a real leader at the back.