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AJER’S AJAX INSPIRATION

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KRISTOFFER AJER reckons Ajax can act as an inspiration to Celtic in Europe.

The Norwegian central defender watched on TV on Tuesday as the Dutch outfit humiliated Real Madrid 4-1 in the Bernabeu to reach the Champions League last eight on a 4-3 aggregate.

Ajer believes the Hoops and the Amsterdam outfit are both on the same level as far as European ambitions are concerned.

Ajax’s wage bill of around £52million which is £7million LESS than Celtic’s salary spend, according to 2018 annual reports.

The Parkhead men haven’t reached the Champions League knock-out stage for six years, but Ajer insists Ajax have shown anything is possible.

The skyscraper centre-half, speaking to the Sun, said: “To have so many young players producing such a fine performance against a team that’s won the Champions League for the last three years was really impressive.

“It shows that, if you have a really good structure for a number of years, then you can deliver good results.

“We can use that to inspire us because we have a really good pathway for our academy players at this club.

“You have to respect that some clubs can afford to buy the top players.

WIZARD OF OZ v DUTCH MASTER…Tom Rogic takes on Ajax’s Nemanji Gudelj in the Dutch side’s 2-1 win at Parkhead in November 2015.

“But, also, if you build up the way Celtic have been doing, and the way Ajax have done, it’s possible to create a system where you’re not only selling great players, but also bringing really good players through you can keep.

“It was impressive to watch them against Real Madrid.”

Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Callum McGregor are just three who have emerged and Ajer added: “You’ll have seen recently some of the excellent players who’ve come through our youth system to play in the first team.

“They are playing and training at a high level, they’re at a club where young players will be brought through and they have been given that opportunity.”

Dedryck Boyata will almost certainly quit the champions at the end of his contract in June when Filip Benkovic will return to Leicester City when his loan deal expires.

Ajer will be asked to take on extra defensive responsibility and the versatile 20-year-old, who arrived at Parkhead as a midfielder from FK Start, is ready for the step up.

CAPITAL GAINS…Kristoffer Ajer joins inspirational skipper Scott Brown and Ewan Henderson and Nir Bitton in congratulating goalscorer James Forrest in last week’s 2-1 win in Edinburgh.

He added: “I’ve played a lot of games here now and it’s such a massive club. I feel like I’m really developing in every single game.

“I feel I’ve grown a lot, not only ability-wise, but in terms of leadership and taking a role there.

“I also have so many players to thank. We have a captain here who’s unbelievable and has been fantastic throughout this change.

“I think Broony is a top, top player and he’s shown that for so many years at Celtic.

“To play at this club for so many years at the level he’s been at is an unbelievable achievement.

“He’s been helping the whole squad over the past week. You’ve seen the way he is in games and the goals he’s scored.

“He’s been a leader throughout the whole thing, but we have a lot of them in the squad.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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