May 2nd, 2021.

Deep into the second-half at Ibrox, Celtic are 3-1 behind against their greatest rivals. Having meekly surrendered the title two months earlier, Kris Ajer and his teammates face the indignity of falling 23 points behind at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

And yet, all is not lost. Rather than the eventual 4-1 victory for Steven Gerrard’s men, 2020/21’s final derby will be chiefly remembered for Ajer nonchalantly sending a no-look pass back to goalkeeper Scott Bain.

If only he’d faced some kind of challenge.

Four months on, the Norwegian defender has been speaking to Norwegian outlet VG about his time in Scotland, saying: “I think it is natural when you play a little too many matches at a level that isn’t high enough.

“I have incredible respect for the Scottish league, there are many great teams there, but there will be a little too many matches where I am not challenged enough.

“I will definitely be in the Premier League, so I probably think the Premier League is not possible to complain about.”

It’s entirely legitimate to suggest that his game will improve against a higher calibre of opposition, but it’s a comment that would have raised fewer eyebrows had it come from Virgil van Dijk following his move to Southampton in 2015.

The Dutchman, who would go on to become the world’s most expensive defender, rarely let his standards slip during his time in Scottish football. It was apparent early on that he was too talented to remain in Scotland for long, but he maintained his focus and performance levels until it was time to leave Glasgow.

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That’s not something that could necessarily be said of Ajer during his final season. Too often the Norwegian was found wanting.

Who can forget Ajer turning to Connor Goldson as the Rangers defender celebrated his second against Celtic, and saying “I need more of a challenge mate”?.

In fairness, Rangers were the best team in the country. Perhaps by “a little too many matches at a level that isn’t high enough”, Ajer was referring to the likes of Ross County, who finished 10th in last season’s Premiership.

For fans of Brentford who have clicked on an article about one of their players and find themselves wondering who these Ross County minnows are, they’re the side who won 2-0 at Celtic Park in November to knock the holders out of the Scottish Cup, before beating them again in the league three months later.

Indeed, the Scottish Cup result prompted angry scenes outside the ground as fans demanded a greater challenge for their centre-backs.

Before finding an escape route this summer, Ajer was forced to endure such tedious non-challenges as the 2-2 draw against Livingston, 2-1 defeat against St Mirren and 1-0 defeat against those pesky no-hopers Ross County.

Of course, no one’s under any illusion as to why Ajef left. Brentford is an English Premier League side, and the standard of football in the top half of that division is fathoms above much of that on offer up here. Nobody is suggesting otherwise.

Ajer’s mistake, however, is to talk about a lack of challenges in Scotland. As a Celtic player, every domestic match you play presents you with opponents who are raising their game because they are up against Celtic. Playing for a team chasing a historic tenth successive title is a pressure significantly greater than anything he will experience playing for a club whose highest ever league finish was fifth in the top flight a mere 85 years ago.

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There’s no doubt that Ajer will see himself moving on from Brentford. With all due respect (as you’re duty-bound to add patronisingly when talking about any football team that doesn’t win trophies), the West London side may play in a more glamorous league but he’ll be turning out in front of a home crowd almost four times smaller than the one he’s just said goodbye to.

He might still get another chance to sample that Celtic Park atmosphere if Brentford and his former club face off against each other. Not in a European match, obviously, but maybe in a friendly.

There Ajer would be, smiling sheepishly as the home support sing of winning the European Cup in 1967 and the away fans respond with ‘Best Sponsorship, Sales and Marketing at the 2013 Stadium Business Awards, you’ll never sing that’.

The fixture list has been kind to Brentford, granting them a favourable early-season schedule against such mid-table shoulder shrugs as Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Aston Villa.

When Liverpool visit the Brentford Community Centre this month, it might just be Mo Salah who feels he’s not being challenged enough.