EPL

Premier League new boys Brentford sign Ajer from Celtic

By Sports Desk July 21, 2021

Newly-promoted Premier League side Brentford have confirmed the signing of centre-back Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic.

The Norway international has penned a five-year deal with the Bees for what is reported to be a club-record fee of £13.5million.

Ajer has spent the past five seasons as a Celtic player, which includes half a season on loan with Kilmarnock in 2016-17, and has also previously played for IK Start in Norway's Eliteserien.

He featured 177 times for Celtic in all competitions and was a key part of the club's run of 12 successive trophies in four seasons before their spell of dominance was ended in 2020-21.

A statement on the Scottish club's official website on Wednesday read: "Everyone at Celtic Football Club wish Kristoffer every success in his future career down south and thank him for his role in the club's success in recent years."

Ajer is Brentford's second signing since earning a first promotion to the Premier League in May with victory over Swansea City in the play-off final, with Frank Onyeka joining earlier this week from sister club FC Midtjylland.

Brentford head coach Thomas Frank told his side's official website: "We wanted to get another central defender in, and Kris was our first choice. We think he fits the position specific profile perfectly, especially on the ball.

"Kris is very composed and can find the right passes between the lines. His level when bringing the ball forward is very high. 

"As a defender he has the physicality that you need, and he won his duels when he played in the Scottish league. He can help us in both boxes, with his strength in the air.

"He is a player at a good age, and we think he come straight in and be ready to perform in the Premier League. 

"But he also fits the way we want to recruit players and work with them. He can develop as a player and both Brentford FC and Kris can move to a higher level in the coming years."

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    Ronald Koeman's 14-month spell in charge of Barcelona came to an end on Wednesday following another humbling defeat.

    Barca fell 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano, fresh on the back of losing to fierce rivals Real Madrid, and find themselves ninth in LaLiga with 10 games played. 

    The Dutchman departs Camp Nou with a win percentage of 58.21 across a 67-game tenure that provided more negatives than positives.

    Here, Stats Perform picks out a few of the highs and lows from Koeman's reign, which coincided with the most difficult off-field period in the club's history.

    MESSI'S DEPARTURE

    When looking backing on Koeman's time at Barcelona in years to come, it will be best remembered as the period in which the Blaugrana were having to adapt to life without all-time leading goalscorer Lionel Messi.

    Years of financial mismanagement predating Koeman's arrival in August 2020 meant Barca were unable to tie Messi down to a new deal and he left for Paris Saint-Germain shortly before the start of the 2021-22 campaign.

    Sergio Aguero arrived but it was always going to take considerable time to replace a player that had scored 672 goals and provided 265 assists across 778 games. So it proved, with Barca's goalscoring problems laid bare this term.

    CLASSICO WOES

    While the loss to Rayo proved to be the final straw for Koeman, there had been growing talk that he would be on his way out regardless following Sunday's 2-1 Clasico defeat to Madrid.

    Barca simply failed to turn up against their biggest rivals – and not for the first time given it was their fourth successive loss to Madrid in all competitions, making it their worst such run in the fixture since 1965.

    Koeman is only the second manager in LaLiga history to lose his first three Clasicos, after Patrick O'Connell between 1935 and 1940, and that latest loss was not taken well by Barca supporters. The former Netherlands boss had his car mobbed by a crowd of disgruntled fans as he attempted to depart Camp Nou.

    EUROPEAN HUMBLINGS

    Barca's on-field struggles were not limited to LaLiga, either, as they made a historically bad start to this season's Champions League campaign with 3-0 defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica.

    Never before had they lost their opening two games in the competition and, while they did just about recover with a 1-0 win over Dynamo Kiev last time out, whoever succeeds Koeman still has plenty of work on their hands to advance from the group.

    Indeed, before that win over Dynamo, Barca had lost four and drawn one of their last five games in the Champions League, having also lost to Juventus in the final game of their group campaign last term before losing to PSG over two legs in the last 16.

    COPA TRIUMPH EASES PAIN 

    Exiting the Champions League in the first knockout round last season was one of a number of disappointments for Barca in their only full season under Koeman.

    Barca finished the LaLiga season in third, seven points behind champions Atletico Madrid, and also lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana in dramatic circumstances.

    But Koeman did win one trophy at Camp Nou thanks to success in the 2020-21 Copa del Rey. After overturning a two-goal first-leg deficit against Sevilla in the semi-finals, Barca exacted revenge on Bilbao in the final with a 4-0 win.

    That made ex-Valencia head coach Koeman the second manager after Luis Enrique to win his first two Copa del Rey finals this century.

     

    A NEW DAWN

    Koeman will rightly point out that he had to operate with one hand tied behind his back due to Barca's financial difficulties, with Antoine Griezmann following Messi out of the door in the most recent transfer window.

    Barcelona's squad became substantially weaker as a result, though it did at least present a chance to bring in some new blood. Koeman has brought the average age of the side down to 25.5, ranking Barca as the third-youngest team in LaLiga this season.

    Ansu Fati's development may have been stunted by knee injury issues, which again kept him out of the Rayo loss, but the club's new number 10 has been given a firm footing to potentially succeed all-time great Messi as the face of Barca going forward.

    Pedri and Gavi have also made a big impact under Koeman, the latter overtaking his team-mate to become the youngest player to start an El Clasico this century last weekend at the age of 17 years and 80 days. 

    It will be those players, and not Koeman, who will attempt to return the club to former glories.

  • Rumour Has It: Barcelona offer vacant coaching role to club legend Xavi Rumour Has It: Barcelona offer vacant coaching role to club legend Xavi

    The list of candidates to replace Ronald Koeman at Barcelona is already forming.

    Koeman was dismissed after Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano which left them ninth in LaLiga.

    Barcelona are battling financial challenges and have struggled since Lionel Messi's exit in August.

    TOP STORY – XAVI OFFERED BARCELONA JOB

    Barcelona have offered their vacant head coaching role to club legend Xavi, reports Goal.

    The Catalans have acted fast with Koeman sacked late on Wednesday.

    Xavi is currently coaching Qatari outfit Al Sadd but has an exit clause in his contract, although Barca are prepared to pay any fee required.

    The 41-year-old long-time Barcelona midfielder retired from playing in 2019, with his final on-field stint at Al Sadd before moving into coaching.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - Liverpool are in the box seat to sign Leeds United's England international midfielder Kalvin Phillips, according to the Daily Star. Phillips, who is contracted with Leeds until 2024, has been linked with Manchester United too, but the report claims Liverpool are his first choice and the deal would be worth around £60million.

    - Manchester United have conceded that agreeing a new deal with Paul Pogba is impossible and are prepared to lose the France international on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, reports ESPN. Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain , Juventus and Real Madrid .

    - Manchester United's Amad Diallo is interested in going out on loan to Dutch club Feyenoord, according to Feyenoord TM. The 19-year-old Ivorian winger has not played this season.

    - TEAMtalk claims that PSG have joined the pursuit of Leeds United's Brazil international Raphinha. PSG is the current home of Raphinha's Brazilian team-mates Neymar and Marquinhos.

    - Chelsea are preparing for Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen's exit by lining up moves for Sevilla's Jules Kounde and Juventus' Matthijs de Ligt, reports Eurosport.

  • Ancelotti on Koeman: Getting sacked is part of the job Ancelotti on Koeman: Getting sacked is part of the job

    Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti says getting sacked is part of the job after his counterpart Ronald Koeman was dismissed by Barcelona on Wednesday.

    Koeman was axed by the Blaugrana following their dismal start to the new season, capped by Wednesday's 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano, leaving them ninth in LaLiga.

    Intense speculation and pressure had mounted about the Dutchman's future for the past month and former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain boss Ancelotti weighed in.

    "I've been sacked several times and I'm still here, alive and happy," Ancelotti told reporters after Madrid's 0-0 home draw with Osasuna.

    "Getting sacked is part of the job and you have to give it everything you've got until the day you're sacked.

    "You have to look forward while keeping a clear conscience. He’s giving everything he has to give."

    Madrid's draw with Osasuna moved them into top spot in LaLiga but left them with only four points collected from their past four league games.

    Ancelotti's side are also winless from their past three home games, including a 2-1 home defeat to Sheriff in the Champions League.

    The stalemate with Osasuna follows a goalless draw with Villarreal in LaLiga, meaning Madrid have recorded back-to-back 0-0 draws in home games in the league for the fourth time, and first since November 1996 under Fabio Capello.

    "Of the three games, we deserved to win two of them," Ancelotti said. "We have to understand that they are difficult games for this squad, because in this game we lacked presence in the box.

    "But do you want the truth? You can call me crazy, but I liked the performance. Especially in the second half. My players have given everything and we have to keep going."

    Ancelotti bemoaned a first-half incident where Los Blancos were denied a penalty after Vinicius Junior was stamped inside the box by Osasuna's Lucas Torro. The Madrid boss also felt aggrieved at a lack of stoppage time in the second half.

    "The penalty is a complicated issue. All I saw, was Vinicius asking the referee to take a look at VAR and he didn't get why," Ancelotti said.

    "Then I understood why, he stamps on him and I think it's a penalty. Why VAR did not intervene I don't know.

    "I told the referee I felt he hadn't added enough injury time given how the game had gone. I asked him for an explanation but it wasn't very convincing."

    Vinicius Junior was busy throughout, attempting 71 passes (64 completed), which was his highest in a single game for Madrid in all competitions.

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