Albian Ajeti on Sturm Graz switch and his Celtic FC future

By Ben McNicol

The sun is shining through the window of his apartment in Graz, Austria and it doesn’t take long in Albian Ajeti’s company to realise how much he is enjoying his football once again with Sturm Graz. But there is devastation in him with the way things worked out over the last two years with Celtic. 

Ajeti arrived at Parkhead in the summer of 2020 from West Ham United in a hefty £4.5m transfer that caught Celtic fans’ eyes with intent of forming a partnership with Odsonne Edouard as the Hoops went all out as they went in search of an historic 10-in-a-row. It all started so well for the forward with five goals in his opening six games, but he soon fell out of the picture and has been a spectator since. 

The 25-year-old is currently with Austrian Bundesliga side Sturm Graz on a season-long loan as he looks to rekindle his confidence in front of goal after a torrid two years in Glasgow’s East-End and hopes to rediscover the form that once had FC Barcelona chasing his signature. The striker has watched idly as Kyogo Furuhashi, Daizen Maeda, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Jota are all ahead of him in the pecking order under Ange Postecoglou – and the Swiss international believes he had no choice whether to leave or not.

He said: “It’s been very nice and is a good club. There’re a lot of young players and they play a different way of football, so it’s been nice to learn this and most importantly to get some game time. This is why I came to Sturm Graz. We’re competing well in the league and in the Europa League as well, so it’s been a really good couple of months. 

“There were a few clubs interested in taking me on loan and Sturm Graz only made a move for me three days before the window closed. I was speaking to a few clubs at this time but when they came for me, I thought they would be the best club for me to go on a season-long loan. I had offers from Italy and Spain, but I might’ve not been guaranteed as much game time there. Once I spoke with the chairman and the rest of the board at the club, they showed a real desire to bring me to the club and were eager to bring me here.

“I wasn’t in a rush to leave Celtic. I still have two years left on my contract there but for me it was clear that I had to think about myself and my future. I knew I needed game time and was waiting for the best opportunity to arise.

“I’m getting back to full fitness again as I’m playing regular football for 70-80 minutes most weeks at the moment. I’m getting my happiness back, which is very important for me.

“I feel confident, but that’s never changed, I just never had the opportunity to build a long-sustained period of confidence with Celtic. I really appreciate the faith and opportunity that Sturm has given to me and I just want to play my football again and get back to doing what I love.

“The overall goal during my time here is just to have a successful season for the club, both in the league, cup and in Europe as well. Our group are all closely matched at the moment so we’re hoping to make it into the knock-out stages. There’s still a lot to play for.

“I would like to get back into the national team, but this isn’t something I have ever worried about. Whenever I have played regularly, I have been called up, so now that I’m back playing regularly I have much bigger hopes than I have over the last year or so.”

Ajeti insists he has no regrets over his move to Celtic – but wishes he was given a sustained period of time in the side to showcase what he really had to offer.

He added: “I really, really enjoyed being at Celtic. I enjoyed the culture, the life and everything around the club. It’s just unfortunate that it hasn’t worked out as I hoped for. I’m very sad things haven’t worked out the way we both wanted to but this is football and there’s not much you can do now.

“I definitely don’t have any regrets, none at all. There’s nothing to regret, especially signing for a club like Celtic. I had offers to join different clubs on a loan deal or permanent deal but Neil {Lennon} and the rest of the board made me feel really wanted there and that’s why I decided to choose Celtic. and. I’m just really upset with the way things have gone over the last two years.

“I have no words sometimes, especially when I’m seeing other players who aren’t natural strikers getting put ahead of me. I was saying to myself ‘what am I meant to do’? – that really did shatter my confidence.

Ajeti’s regaining his confidence in front of goal

“I sit and think about where it all went wrong all the time after having a good start and I really can’t explain it, I can’t find the answer. There were a couple of injury problems and we weren’t playing to the levels that we should have been and the results were not good enough. It was a tough year for everyone, including the fans, who were unable to come to stadiums. There were a lot of COVID-19 issues, people having to quarantine, and a whole bunch of other reasons.”

Ajeti hasn’t yet decided how to approach his career crossroads.

The 25-year-old continued: “I still think the Celtic fans don’t even know what kind of player I am or what I am capable of because there isn’t much for them to go off. I couldn’t really show them what kind of player I am and for me that’s really frustrating. 

“It’s been a really tough time and has been something new for me – it’s probably one of the lowest points of my career, especially the second season at Celtic after Ange {Postecoglou} came in. I was working very, very hard behind the scenes and did hours of extra training every day to show everyone what I am capable of. I was trying to put as much pressure on the manager as possible to show that I’m ready. It was a difficult year and it really hurt me.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s