Everton are looking at Brentford defender Kristoffer Ajer…
That is according to The Athletic, who report that the 24-year-old is admired at Goodison Park.
This means that the Toffees may have to pay a lot more than his £15.3m market value.
It comes as no surprise that Everton want to bolster their defence, as Frank Lampard’s side have conceded the fifth highest number of goals in the Premier League this season.
Michael Keane featured the most in that backline with 32 appearances, so naturally much of the blame around the defensive shortcomings have fallen on the England international.
With The Athletic reporting that Everton rejected an enquiry from another Premier League club into Keane last year, how does Ajer compare to the 29-year-old?
The Manchester Academy graduate has been through it all in Everton’s backline this season. He has made ten more starts at centre back than anyone else at the club, which has meant that he has lacked stability in his partners.
His presence is the closest thing to stability to the Toffees defence this season, and his determination to play has been appreciated by Lampard when he played with a fever during their loss to Tottenham Hotspur.
“The thing that people don’t see about that situation is that, whilst he was feeling below-par, we needed him and he played in the game. I remember doing that as a player myself. You don’t always get the plaudits and sometimes after the game you wish you hadn’t played.
“The beauty of it is he is dedicated and professional and he wanted to put himself out there.”
The former Burnley stopper also leads his side out of everyone that made more than ten league appearances in interceptions, clearances, and blocks per game, as per WhoScored.
His performance in his debut season at the south-west London club has delighted his manager Thomas Frank, who praised his start to life at Brentford.
“He defended very well and had some good actions on the ball, so I think he took a step in the right direction. But he’s still young with a lot of things to learn defensively and offensively.
“He definitely has huge potential, because he’s got the character and the ability on the ball. You can see that when he’s driving forward, and I want that from my centre backs and outside centre backs. Now he just has to build, and learn all the extra layers of this.”
He has also contributed to his team going forward, being in the top 1% of Premier League centre backs for assists and goal-creating actions.
The Athletic report that Everton have five senior centre back options. Jarrad Branthwaite is only 19 with just ten Premier League appearances, and Yerry Mina’s injury problems meaning that he missed 25 games this campaign, so that leaves Keane, Mason Holgate, and Ben Godfrey.
Ajer not missing a game due to injury for Brentford will then be music to the ears of Frank Lampard.
Considering also that Keane at 29 is entering the twilight of his career, the £35k-per-week defender would be a great signing to step into those shoes.