Newcastle United will target a move for Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer whether or not Steve Bruce remains as manager.
What’s the story?
According to the Daily Mail, the club are keen on a move for the towering Norway international and, while they do expect some competition, Bruce’s future isn’t thought to have much of an impact on their pursuit.
What’s his contract status?
The 6ft 6inch giant is out of contract next summer and could be available for £8m as a result.
Who else is keen?
Compared to some of Newcastle’s other options in central defence, the 22-year-old does boast some rather impressive statistics. Indeed, he hits more long balls (3.2, via WhoScored) than the likes of Jamaal Lascelles, Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark which could help turn defence into attack quicker and wins more aerial duels than anyone other than Clark (3.2 to 3.3).
FBREF data notes how the Celtic star wins more interceptions on average compared to the three aforementioned Toon stoppers too (averaging 1.51 a game) as well as boasting the highest percentage of tackles won (0.91).
Would he be a good signing?
With Fernandez’s contract up at the end of the season, Ajer could be a long-term replacement for the Argentine. A towering figure capable of giving Newcastle something different, the fact he is only 22 years of age would surely appeal to the hierarchy given the obvious sell-on potential. While the Scottish Premiership is generally considered to be of a lower level than the Premier League, there has been a huge amount of transfer success from clubs shopping north of the border in recent years.
If Newcastle can get him for £8m, you’d have to suggest that would be good business, at least on paper. Still, if they are relegated, it’s hard to imagine the club being all that appealing to a man also attracting interest from Italy.