Norway manager Lars Lagerback reckons the development of Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer could be hastened if he left to play in a bigger league, as reported by The Scottish Sun.
This has been a real breakthrough season for the Norwegian international at the Hoops and fans are excited about his future at Celtic Park.
Lagerback’s key consideration though is the improvement of the player regardless of which club he plays for and his comments on Ajer this week are very intriguing.
As quoted by the paper, the 70-year-old said of the Celtic defender:
I don’t think the Scottish League inhibits his development, but it’s fair to say if he became a regular starter at a higher level, it would probably speed it up.
The harder the level you are at, the more you have to be on your toes.
But to be fair, it’s about him being at a club where he gets playing time and Celtic do have Champions League matches every season so he is in a good environment.
I think he takes less risks than he used to in his game, but that comes with experience.
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The national boss was clearly diplomatic with his comments, but the suggestion that Ajer’s game might be better served with a move to a more competitive and illustrious league is an interesting one ahead of the summer transfer window.
Does his argument have merit?
Ajer only turned 21 in April and so is still right at the very beginnings of his career despite excellent experience both in the Norwegian and Scottish top-flights.
Making 45 appearances for the Hoops last term, he had his most impressive season to date, playing regularly for Celtic in a treble-winning campaign that also resulted in European football after Christmas.
The most important thing for the player right now is getting even more games under his belt as a centre-back, especially considering he only converted to the position from midfield a couple of years ago.
Realistically he is unlikely to be getting a regular game for teams in the top five European leagues who can also offer him that vital experience in continental competition, which is something Lagerback notes in his comments.
A move could in fact could be a hindrance to his development, rather than a benefit, and the players’ advisers are likely taking that into account when considering his future.
The player himself seems to be relishing his role at Celtic Park too. Happiness goes a long way.
His next personal goal should be cementing a spot in the defensive line as a first-choice pick rather than back-up.
The smart money would be on that happening next season and Ajer becoming an even better player for club and country in a year’s time.