This article is part of Football FanCast’s Expert Roundup feature, which provides three quotes from those in the know in order to illuminate fundamental strengths, weaknesses, quirks, stylistic comparisons and general observations of players, transfer targets and confirmed signings.
High-flying Leicester City are clearly not resting on their laurels if the numerous reports are to be believed that the Foxes are planning a January swoop for Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer.
Having arrived at Celtic Park in 2016 as a free-scoring attacking midfielder Ajer was successfully – and unconventionally – converted to centre-back and has subsequently flourished into an outstanding stopper who was recently ranked the best in his position across the SPFL by the Daily Record.
In his first full season the young star was a powerful presence as Celtic won a second consecutive treble under Brendan Rodgers while more recently the Norwegian’s formidable partnership at the back with Christopher Jullien has won acclaim and admiration.
Now, with a possible reunion between player and manager on the cards, the Premier League might soon discover what all the fuss is about.
With that in mind, let’s jump straight to the head of the queue and find out what those who know him best have had to say about his talent…
It was the Rodgers who first ushered Ajer into the first team, developing him into the solid, ball-playing defender he is today so it stands to reason that he is keen to secure his services south of the border. Last year, shortly before he left for the King Power Stadium he made his appreciation of the player clear. As per the Daily Record:
“Kris has made some big steps. He’s only 20 but he’s really dominant. You think now that when everything comes through the middle of the pitch he gets his head on it. He’s a natural leader as a young guy and is improving all the time.”
“He’s got a lot of strength and is a quick learner. He’s a bright boy who takes information on very quickly. Every day in training he wants to win.”
“He’s a young central defender who can play but first and foremost you have to be able to defend. Kris doesn’t take many risks, which is a key point to his game.”
With Rodgers Premier League bound Neil Lennon resumed his position in the Glasgow hot-seat and it didn’t take long before he too was publicly acknowledging the many merits of the 6ft 6 giant. As per the Scottish Sun:
“Kris is a fantastic player and has pretty much played every minute for me. We rested him in Estonia, but that’s the first football he has missed since last February.
“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.”
Mention there of Ajer’s international ascent brings us to Lagerback who typically is measured in his assessment when speaking in 2018. It’s worth noting that for the veteran tactician this is positively high praise indeed. As per The Herald:
“We have picked Kristoffer for the upcoming friendlies. That tells you we are very much aware of him and what he has done. What he has done since he started to play regularly for Celtic before Christmas has been impressive. He has shown that he’s a very promising player.”
Composed, commanding and a player who always relishes a personal battle, Ajer has been consistently magnificent for two years now in a side whose dominance is such that it only requires competence from its defenders.
It’s time for the colossus to truly test himself at the top level.