Exclusive: Atletico Madrid join Real in interest in Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer

Atletico Madrid are one of the teams interested in signing Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, Football Espana can reveal.

The Norwegian has been heavily linked with moves away from Celtic Park as he enters the two years of his contract, with Atletico’s city rivals Real Madrid on the list of teams keeping an eye on him, according to Mundo Deportivo. The Sun then quoted his agent telling the world that his client “not extend his contract and will leave this summer”, attempting to push the Scottish Champions towards a sale.

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.

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.

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