Albian Ajeti: Profile of our new striker…
So, what do we know of our most recent signing?
On 26 February 1997 in Basel, Switzerland of Albanian descent. His parents Afrim and Sylbije Ajeti were originally from Kosovo. On the same day, Tommy Burns’ Celtic beat Hibernian 2-0 in a Scottish Cup fourth round replay at a packed Parkhead, thanks to goals from Phil O’Donnell and Paolo Di Canio either side of half-time. The Hoops would then face and beat Rangers in the quarter final.
Albian is one of three footballing brothers. Arlind is the elder of the three, born in September 1993, and is a centre-half currently plying his trade with Celtic’s old European opponents, Vejle, in Denmark. He had previously enjoyed spells with FC Basel, Frosinone, Torino and Crotone in Italy, and Grasshopper Zurich. Although he represented Switzerland at all levels up until U21, Arlind plays for Albania at senior level and played twice at the Euro16 Finals in France, against the hosts and Romania.
Albian has a twin brother who is also a central defender and who is named after me, Adonis. They came through the FC Basel youth ranks together, albeit Adonis only made one substitute appearance for the senior team – a Europa league match with Lech Poznan – before his move to Swiss second-tier outfit FC Wil. Adonis then moved to FC St Gallen in 2017, appearing as a late substitute against Celtic in last July’s 0-0 friendly draw in Switzerland.
Having come through the youth ranks at his hometown club FC Basel, 17-year-old Albian made his senior debut in the St Jakob-Park on 13 March 2014, as a substitute in a Europa League Round of 16 tie against Red Bull Salzburg. Basel would take a 3-0 lead to Valencia in the next round, before it all went wrong in the Mestalla, the Spanish taking the tie to extra-time before adding two more goals for a 5-0 win on the night. The manager of FC Basel at that time was Murat Yakin, one of the brothers who played against Celtic in the Champions League Play-off back in 2002.
Having scored 4 goals in 20 appearances for FC Basel, Albian joined German side Augsburg in January 2016, making one substitute appearance in the Bundesliga before moving back to Switzerland on loan to St Gallen that summer. A successful spell there with 11 goals in 30 appearances was rewarded with a permanent deal at the end of the 2016/17 season, however, his first club then came calling again, Albian re-signing for FC Basel in October 2017.
He would team up at St Jakob-Park with new Celtic colleague Moi Elyounoussi, who had joined Basel from Molde the previous summer, the Norwegian winger enjoying a fine debut season as his new club coasted to their eighth successive Swiss Super League title, 17 points ahead of Young Boys Berne.
Whilst both men would enjoy excellent personal seasons in the 2017/18 campaign, Ajeti the country’s top goalscorer with 17 from his matches with St Gallen and Basel, and Elyounoussi with an impressive 11 goals and 14 assists, Young Boys would produce a Martin O’Neill-esque swing of 34 points to end Basel’s long run of dominance as Swiss Champions.
Moi Elyounoussi would then sign for Southampton, in June 2018, whilst another player now plying his trade in Glasgow, Cedric Itten, would head out to St Gallen on loan. Itten also appeared as a second-half substitute against Celtic in last summer’s centenary challenge in St Gallen. Ajeti would stay and be involved with Basel’s 2018/19 Champions League qualifying game with PAOK, scoring a late goal in Thessaloniki which kept the Swiss very much in the tie at 1-2, however, a 3-0 home collapse saw Basel drop into the Europa League. Celtic would suffer the same fate in the next round of the Champions League qualifiers in Athens.
Albian scored the only goal of the second leg as Basel eased passed Dutch side Vitesse 2-0 on aggregate in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, then failed to hit the target as the Swiss lost out on away goals to Cypriots Apollon Limassol in the Play-off round, with the teams tied at 3-3. They again finished behind Young Boys in the Swiss Super League, this time by a massive 20 points despite Ajeti’s 12 goals and 8 assists. Basel did win the Swiss Cup, with Ajeti opening the scoring in the final against FC Thun in Berne.
Ajeti began the 2019/20 season still at Basel, scoring an equaliser in Eindhoven as the Swiss lost a 2-1 lead late on against PSV to go down 3-2. Basel would then qualify on away goals, after winning the second leg 2-1 at the St Jakob-Park, however, before the next round against Austrians LASK Linz, Ajeti had moved to England, becoming an £8m signing for West Ham United, joining some serious competition there in the shape of £45m French striker Sebastien Haller, who had signed from Eintracht Frankfurt in July.
Neither player would set the heather alight, as the Hammers really struggled to find the net, only Michail Antonio reaching double figures, with four of his 10 goals coming in one game against Norwich in July! The £45m Haller managed 7 in 35 appearances, whilst Albian failed to get off the mark in his 12 matches in east London, albeit in fairness, only two of those involved more than 45 minutes on the pitch.
Albian Ajeti has an overall club career total of 57 goals in 151 appearances.
Despite interest from Albania, Ajeti made his senior international debut for Switzerland in September 2018, coming off the bench for the final half-hour against Iceland in the Nations League in St Gallen. Albian scored within five minutes of his appearance, the fifth goal for the Swiss in a comprehensive 6-0 victory. This remains the only goal of his 10 caps for his country.
I hope you enjoyed that look at our new Celt. Here is his Media Conference from earlier today…
And his Welcome to Celtic interview with Gerry McCulloch at Celtic TV…
💬 “Celtic are a perfect fit for me, I needed no convincing.”
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) August 13, 2020
Welcome to Paradise, Albian Ajeti.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue