Ajer can see the big­ger pic­ture at Celtic be­fore he takes that next step

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Sport - By Alison McCon­nell

KRISTOFFER AJER needn’t rush into a move away from Celtic this sum­mer, ac­cord­ing to for­mer Park­head cap­tain Roy Aitken.

AC Mi­lan and Bren­dan Rodgers’ Le­ices­ter are among those who have kept tabs on the 22-year-old Nor­we­gian in­ter­na­tion­al­ist, who has al­ready es­tab­lished him­self as a key mem­ber for both club and coun­try.

Ajer (be­low), who has two years left on his cur­rent Celtic con­tract, has made more than 100 ap­pear­ances for the club since ar­riv­ing a raw teenager just as Ronny Deila’s ten­ure in Glas­gow was draw­ing to a close.

If the tra­jec­tory of his ca­reer is ex­pected to con­tinue with a move into a more pres­ti­gious league, Aitken main­tained that con­sid­er­a­tion has to be given to the big­ger pic­ture.

‘At Celtic, there is so much there for him in terms of learn­ing the game,’ he ob­served. ‘He’s a key part of Neil Len­non’s team. Since mov­ing from mid­field back into de­fence he has re­ally started to learn the de­fen­sive dis­ci­pline of the po­si­tion and that abil­ity to carry the ball out from the back is such an in­cred­i­ble as­set.

‘There is no ques­tion he has all the hall­marks of the mod­ern cen­tre-half. That abil­ity to come for­ward from de­fence and get an at­tack go­ing is a real string to his bow, while his ath­leti­cism is also very much in keep­ing with what is needed now in mod­ern foot­ball. He is an ex­cit­ing tal­ent.

‘But at Celtic he also has the op­por­tu­nity to go and play Euro­pean foot­ball and to be at a club where there are de­mands and pres­sures on him ev­ery sin­gle week. That is huge in terms of mak­ing sure you are al­ways learn­ing and al­ways hav­ing to be on it. You don’t tend to get away with a poor game at Celtic. He is de­vel­op­ing all the time.’

The busi­ness blue­print from Celtic over the last decade has been fairly suc­cess­ful in terms of sift­ing for tal­ent in a fairly clut­tered and in­creas­ingly ex­pen­sive mar­kets. The path was set through the likes of Gary Hooper, Vir­gil Van Dijk and Vic­tor

Wanyama, while home-grown star Kieran Tier­ney last sum­mer left for a Scot­tish trans­fer record of £25mil­lion.

While Aitken ac­cepts there is re­al­ism at Celtic Park in terms of al­low­ing Ajer to move on in his ca­reer — and ap­pre­ci­ates that it would be enor­mously dif­fi­cult to turn down an of­fer should it be tabled this sum­mer — he has main­tained that for both player and club there is no need for any haste.

‘I think we can all ap­pre­ci­ate Celtic’s busi­ness model and ul­ti­mately I am sure that the boy him­self will have am­bi­tions of go­ing on to play in one of the ma­jor leagues,’ said Aitken, who won six ti­tles, five Scot­tish Cups and a League Cup in his Park­head ca­reer. ‘How­ever, at 22, the most im­por­tant thing for Ajer is that he needs to make sure that he is play­ing ev­ery week. He has al­ready firmly es­tab­lished him­self for his coun­try and you can see even over the last few sea­sons just how much he has come on. I don’t think there would be any­one who would stand in his way at Celtic if there was an of­fer for him to go on and fur­ther his ca­reer.

‘But at the same time there is no rush. The boy seems happy enough and he has cer­tainly never made any pub­lic noises about want­ing to leave. He def­i­nitely gives it his all in games and I think he gets the club.

‘He will know more than any­one that if he keeps do­ing what he is do­ing then he’ll have a fair few choices on the ta­ble. But play­ing at Celtic and in front of 60,000 fans — when that’s al­lowed again and we’re back in nor­mal cir­cum­stances — will def­i­nitely pre­pare him if he wants to go on and put fur­ther de­mands on him­self. ‘He will still have a few things to work on. He seems like a ma­ture boy. It def­i­nitely takes some­thing to come to a for­eign coun­try as a young­ster and be pre­pared to be pa­tient, which is what he had to do. ‘An­other strong sea­son at Celtic where he is go­ing to be play­ing ev­ery week and po­ten­tially get­ting ex­po­sure against some top Euro­pean teams can only be to his ben­e­fit.’

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