Kris Ajer will almost certainly leave Parkhead today, for a club which probably wasn’t on his list of hoped-for teams. I am not convinced he’s benefited his immediate career today although his bank balance will certainly be the healthier for it. So is ours.
Ajer, in fact, will certainly not be at Brentford for long.
It’s clear that the club is his ultimate shop window. In the end, it’ll pay off.
Provided he’s played in the right role.
The last few weeks, Ajer’s people have been playing funny buggers in the press. Nevertheless, promises were made to the big man that he could go in this window and that promise is about to be kept.
Celtic will be paid in excess of what I thought possible, a transfer fee which exceeds what I hoped we’d get and with add-ons and sell on clauses adding up to cherries on top, to be served at a later feast. It’s tremendous business for the club.
There were some in the media who hoped we’d blown this. The thing is, our negotiating position was never ridiculous. It was never over the top. We never expected, or asked for, crazy money. We wanted clubs to treat us with the respect of not offering shirt buttons for a player who has been at the heart of our team for the past couple of years.
I am a huge admirer of Kris Ajer, and really hoped we’d have seen him at his best in a Celtic shirt. The absurd experiment of playing him at central defence ended that. Ajer is not a centre back and he’s never, to me, remotely looked like one when we’ve come up against half decent teams. He is not great in the air. His positioning is inconsistent. He doesn’t have the reactions to be a centre back going up against really decent strikers and it shows.
Ajer has got this move because he is a remarkably good technical footballer and he moves brilliantly with the ball. He can pass it well and his timing in the tackle can be exceptional.
Yet it’s clear that these are midfielder qualities … the position he started his career in and which he has on numerous times said is his best one.
We should have played him there, made him our highest paid footballer and maybe even offered him the armband. He might not have accepted, and now we’ll never know.
Few players must have been quite as baffled as Ajer when Lennon, in the aftermath of the Ferencvaros disaster for which the manager bore the bulk of the responsibility, started accusing players of not being committed. Clearly, Ajer was one of those he had in mind, but the big man had already shown his commitment by agreeing to stay for that final year.
It was a dreadful way to treat footballers who had stayed and promised to give their all. Yet for all that, Ajer continued to give 100%. There was no point at which he switched off, as Edouard did. There was no match in which he visibly chucked it. His form never dipped like that of Ryan Christie; he kept his standards high and he pushed on for the club.
It is sad that we haven’t had a chance to say goodbye to the big lad. He deserved a last opportunity to take a bow in the front of the supporters. He was a critical part of the Quadruple Treble team, a fierce warrior who gave us everything and who goes now to test himself in a better league. He will not be at Brentford long. He will end up back in midfield and a team which utilises his phenomenal talents to the full, and we’ll net several more millions along the way.
He signed for us for just over £500,000. He was 17. He’s given us four good years in the first team squad, three of them in which we were exceptionally successful. He leaves us with great memories, trophies and £13 million better off.
Good business, right?
He goes with our respect, and our gratitude and our thanks … and he leaves behind the pot of gold that will truly let Postecoglou stamp his own mark on this squad.
Get spending Celtic, and thank you Kris and good luck to you in your future footballing endeavours.