COMMENT By Richard Parks
Kristoffer Ajer is fully deserving of an improved and extended Celtic contract.
He is the present and future of the team that is gradually being re-shaped by manager Brendan Rodgers following a season of mass chopping and changing in defence.
This has partly been down to injury, but also due to the inconsistent performances of the likes of Dedryck Boyata, Jozo Simunovic, Mikael Lustig and Erik Sviatchenko, who was loaned out in January.
Only Kieran Tierney of the defenders has risen above the mediocrity to nail down a regular starting spot without any questions about whether he is deserving.
Ajer has now come close to matching Tierney’s hallowed status as a first-choice defender following a string of impressive performances since the back end of last year.
He has started 10 of the club’s last 11 league matches and can now expect, rather than hope, to be on Brendan Rodgers’ teamsheet.
An imposing centre-back who stands at 6ft 4in and reads the game well, Ajer demonstrated his versatility by filling in at right-back in last Sunday’s memorable 3-2 win at Rangers.
Ajer, signed by Ronny Deila in January 2016, was sent on loan to Kilmarnock last season, but has made 24 appearances for Celtic this season.
The Hoops recognise he could be something special and, according to the Scottish Sun, have already begun discussions about tying the versatile Norwegian defender to an extended contract.
It is said that Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell is set for further meetings with Ajer’s agent Tore Pedersen in a bid to reach an agreement that will keep the player at Parkhead beyond the summer of 2020.
Lawwell has a keen sense of a player’s value and is a one step ahead again as he looks to ensure the player is rewarded as well as tied down to a long-term deal that will also enhance his market value.
Celtic have a bona fide star in their ranks and the giant teenager is a player the club will want to build around in the next few years.
There is no doubt that Ajer is destined for a fine career at the top level.
In other Celtic news, a £45,000-a-week man at the club is set to quit this summer after major Monday development.