KRISTOFFER AJER’S progress will be a factor on Brendan Rodgers’ mind over the next few days as he considers the response that Celtic will give to Fulham as the Premier League Club come shopping for World Cup star Dedryck Boyata.
A £9million opening bid is hard to dismiss out of hand for a player entering his final year of his contract and a little bit of skilled negotiations could easily see the London club paying £10million, added with a healthy sell-on fee.
Big John Hartson in his newspaper column is stating that Celtic should hold onto Boyata because he’ll be worth £29million. So a decent sell-on clause is a must.
Hartson’s claim might be the case in 12 months after he’s had a good season at Fulham and has 3 years remaining on a deal at Craven Cottage.
The truth is that if Boyata won’t sign a new deal at Celtic because he wants to go to England – where the pay packet will be around £50k a week – then he is a decreasing asset to Celtic. One that would be worth nothing next May, just as John McGinn will be worth nothing to Hibs if he is not sold now.
Boyata will have no part to play against AEK Athens who arrive in Scotland later today. And yesterday Ajer spoke ahead of the vital Champions League 3rd Round qualifying tie.
“Every time you play at home in the first leg of a European qualifier it is important to get a good result,” Ajer said.
“That is what we hope for but I have to say that when you play at Celtic Park you are used to a fantastic atmosphere and one of the best in the world. We are used to that. Hopefully we can get a good result.
“I must admit that Celtic Park is unbelievable and it is like that every time you play there. The flag day against Livingston was fantastic and it is unbelievable.”
Ajer recognises that he has developed as a professional football player over the past 12 months.
“I feel as though I am more experienced with every game that I play.
“Playing here at Celtic is fantastic. It is a real dream come true. You just need to look forward to every game because they come so quickly.
“I feel a lot more confident having played so many games now for Celtic. It makes me believe in myself but also I know the club a lot more. I know how we are supposed to be playing and that makes it easier.”
Ajer I something of a cool head on young shoulders and this calmness is certainly something that helps him cope with the pressures of the Champions League summer qualifying campaign which is so vital to the club.
“Of course, people have different ways of getting themselves ready for a match. I feel ready for a football game. I don’t need that adrenalin from doing something like that. I just get up for a game by being calm. I always listen to the same Norwegian music before I go out. That’s something I always do.
“I learn from all the players around me.
“In the beginning I got a bit nervous but with all the help I get from the staff and the gaffer I feel calm. It makes it a lot easier knowing what you have to do.
“I was a lot younger before, you have to remember that. I am still young? Yes, but I am growing and getting older and more experience. It’s important to get a good balance, to understand it’s big games that you are playing in but not to get too nervous.”
The scale of the task and the importance of seeing it through successfully is not lost on the 20 year old.
“For Celtic you always want to play Champions League every season. That is what we are looking to do.
“To play in the Champions League, it is the best teams in the world. All the teams we meet in the qualifiers want to get there. Rosenborg has that target every year to get into the Champions League. We also want to be there.
“We played Alashkert and they made it tough with us and we also had the heat too. Rosenborg are a really great team too in Norway. It is difficult to qualify and we know that we have a great team waiting for us again now. We really just have to take it one game at a time.
“We will have a meeting today and look at how Athens will be looking to play. That will be interesting. I will be studying all their offensive players. I will hear all about their strengths and their weaknesses and that’s something that is really important in my preparation.”