Atletico will rival Real Madrid in race to sign Celtic’s Kris Ajer, Football Espana reveals

KRISTOFFER AJER is certainly a player who is being talked about in Madrid at the moment. A week or so ago the remarkable news broke that the 22 year old Norwegian was a shock summer transfer target for Real Madrid, now we understand from our friends at Football Espana that Atletico are also interested in signing the Celtic defender – but maybe not at the moment.

Football Espana this morning report on a story that they have been working on over the weekend. The Spanish football site’s staff writer Will Faulks contacted The Celtic Star yesterday for background information on Ajer’s current situation at Celtic and for an assessment on his play for the side, including whether he could perform at right back and as a defensive midfielder.

Will Faulks report states: “Atletico have spent heavily in recent windows, and their focus remains on bringing more goals into the team, but their scouts have been impressed by the dominant style of Ajer, whose 1.97m frame and assured presence on the ball makes him capable of stepping up to a bigger league. What’s more, he will be available for a coronavirus-friendly price as he gets closer to the end of his deal in 2022.”

“Crucially, any deal will be dependent on the Rojiblancos selling other players from their squad first. Central defenders Mario Hermoso and Felipe were signed last summer, and the latter gradually displaced Jose Gimenez as Diego Simeone’s preferred option alongside Stefan Savic at the back.

It is understood that the arrival of Ajer would be dependent on Gimenez departing, with Liverpool and Inter Milan both linked with the Uruguay international recently by AS in Spain.”

Football Espana continues: “Simeone wants to keep his valued former regular and let him fight for his place, but won’t stand in his way if he pushes for a move.

“That would mean the younger duo of Ajer and Hermoso backing up the first choice pair, for now. Ajer’s ability to fill in in defensive midfield or at right back – where he featured 9 times for Celtic this season – should ensure enough minutes to keep all four content for the short term, with Savic and Felipe eventually moved on.

“The coronavirus pandemic makes every club’s financial situation difficult to predict, and while Atletico will likely be spending even less than previously anticipated, Celtic will also be inclined to accept lower offers too.

“If no club is willing to pay the fee €20m Celtic could ask for this summer, it may well be that Ajer stays in Scotland for another year, bringing him to the final 12 months of his current deal, when Celtic’s hand will really be forced.

“Atletico’s well reported interest in Mohammed Salisu of Valladolid will also be a major factor in the Ajer situation, and his low release clause makes him a tempting bargain, even if he’s then loaned back to his current side for another year.”

One thing that the guys at Football Espana haven’t quite grasped is that Peter Lawwell is hardly likely to undersell player who is more than likely to be the big ticket summer transfer deal going out the door at Celtic Park. Coronavirus or no coronavirus, Lawwell will make sure that the interested clubs are well aware of his valuation and as in the case of Kieran Tierney, Ajer will not be sold unless Celtic minimum price is met.

With the two Madrid clubs, Milan and Leicester City, managed of course by former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, all in the frame for the Norwegian’s signature, Lawwell is unlikely to be offering any discounted deals due to the pandemic. Indeed he’ll be keen to break the £25m transfer record set by the sale of Kieran Tierney to Arsenal last summer.

Ajer’s agent already has indicated that his client will not sign a contract extension but he does have two years left on his current deal. With Jozo Simunovic being released at the weekend after Celtic rather surprisingly decided against taking up the one year option in his contract, Neil Lennon would be desperately short of central defenders should Ajer leave. However a fee around the £25million will be more than enough to fund transfer activity. Christopher Jullien arrived from Toulouse last July for a fee of £7m and Celtic might look to shop in France again.

Final word on the Madrid clubs’ interest in Ajer. The chap from the Spanish website lives in Madrid and has very good contacts at both clubs. Atletico’s interest is much stronger than Real’s according to him. Make of that what you will.

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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