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Bundesliga outfit ‘increasingly confident’ of beating Newcastle United to Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer

According to the Northern Echo, Bayer Leverkusen are ‘increasingly confident’ of beating Newcastle United to the summer transfer of Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer.

Steve Bruce had hoped to conclude a deal for the Norwegian before other clubs could step up their interest. The Toon boss is facing a raft of question marks over his centre-back options with Federico Fernandez and Fabian Schar out of contract this month.

Ajer has also featured on Newcastle’s list of transfer targets for the last few seasons. He is now expected to leave Celtic as the Premiership giants begin a vast overhaul after a disastrous title defence.

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Ajer is one of many who may leave Parkhead as Celtic have accepted now is the best time to sell. The defender has entered the final year of his contract and want his situation resolved as soon as possible.

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Newcastle have held talks with the Hoops over a deal for the 23-year-old but are only willing to pay £6million. Yet Celtic want £16m (Daily Record) and are boosted by rival interest from Norwich City.

The Bundesliga could represent Newcastle’s toughest opponent, however. Bayer Leverkusen spoke with Ajer over the weekend and are confident they will now secure his services. The allure of Europa League football is also beneficial in promoting a move to Germany.

Ajer would also reunite with former Celtic teammate Jeremie Frimpong at the BayArena. His former defensive partner moved to the Bundesliga in January in a deal that could reach £11.5m.

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Bayer Leverkusen’s confidence in a deal for Ajer will come as a blow for Newcastle but more so Bruce. The Magpies boss clearly values what he could have brought to St James’ Park as he wanted a deal sewn up early.

Bruce also marked centre-half signings as his key early-summer priority given the uncertainty over Schar and Fernandez’s futures. The latter is also a target for Real Betis, while Ciaran Clark is facing an uncertain future, as well.

Now, United risk missing out on Bruce’s defensive target by failing to agree terms before clubs like Leverkusen were able to register their interest. But the gap between Newcastle and Celtic’s valuations would have presented a real challenge for the Toon.

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