Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer has been compared to former Hoops star and the world’s most expensive defender Virgil van Dijk by ex-Parkhead ace Johan Mjällby.
The Norwegian 20-year-old has been a regular among the first team in recent seasons, going on to make 73 appearances for the Glasgow giants, while he has also been capped eight times for his country.
Now, having emerged as a regular option in the starting XI for Neil Lennon, Mjällby has tipped the centre back to follow in the footsteps of Liverpool’s superstar defender, who moved from Celtic to Southampton before heading to Anfield – and it must have Bhoys chief Peter Lawwell in dreamland.
What has been said?
Van Dijk became the world’s most expensive defender when joining the Reds, breaking the record set by Kyle Walker in a £75million switch – as reported by the Mirror.
He is seen as one of the best centre backs in the world right now and Mjällby believes that the Hoops’ own young defender is cut from the same cloth, envisaging him following a similar path to the Dutchman.
Speaking to Football Scotland he said: “He could definitely follow the same path as Virgil Van Dijk if he stays. He’s got every chance. He’s very young. But he’s got all the attributes to become very good. Virgil was probably further ahead when we brought him in. It took him a while, not football-wise, because he was too good even when he first came here.
“He’s (Ajer) got every chance. I have seen a lot of him. He’s still young but he has the size and is good on the ball as well. I just want to see him play even more games in the centre of defence week-in, week-out before he decides to move.”
Tall and powerful but with good ball control, there is plenty for Ajer left to learn in the game but the fact he is closing in on 100 senior appearances for Celtic – a feat he will likely achieve before his 22nd birthday – is a feat in itself.
Why will Lawwell be excited?
In one word: money. Celtic have been and will continue to be a selling club when the likes of English sides come calling and it seems as though Ajer might well be one of those to leave Parkhead in a couple of years.
However, having seen van Dijk end up at Liverpool for a huge amount of money and with Moussa Dembele’s exit last summer, it is clear that the Hoops perhaps should be demanding more for their star players.
The comparison to van Dijk is a bold one but if he can hit anywhere near the heights that the Dutchman did while at Parkhead, the Bhoys need only to point to the £75million price tag which sealed their former star’s signing from Southampton.
Anyone who comes to Lawwell’s door asking for the sale of one of their top stars best expect to be met with a hefty fee to pay – and while losing their most talented players is disappointing, the Bhoys chief would love to come away with bags full of cash.
If Ajer can follow in van Dijk’s footsteps, the Hoops are sitting on a goldmine and the Hoops will be dreaming of the cheque that they could well pick up.