De Ligt: Which clubs want Ajax star and how much will he cost?
Ajax's Netherlands defender, 19, is being chased by a number of major European clubs, with Barcelona thought to be best placed to sign him.
Matthijs de Ligt is one of the most sought-after young prospects in European football, with half the continent's top clubs seemingly vying for the signature of a 19-year-old centre-back who is already a fantastic footballer, but has the potential to blossom into a truly world-class performer.
Whole host of clubs chasing Ajax and Netherlands defender
De Ligt's fine header in Turin sealed Ajax's qualification for the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Juventus on Tuesday, and his displays in the tournament this term have only served to make his departure from Amsterdam all the more of a cert, with the Italians one of a long list of suitors also featuring Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Barcelona seemingly in pole position
Barça appear to be leading the race. The LaLiga champions have been tracking De Ligt for some time, and have a good relationship with Ajax, who have already agreed to sell another young Dutch international, Frenkie de Jong, to the Blaugrana. In November, Ajax reportedly named a 140-million-euro joint price for the two starlets, with De Ligt valued at 65.
Juve also ready to pounce for De Ligt
Ajax's European victims Juve are also very much in contention for De Ligt, though. In February, Tuttosport reported that sporting director Fabio Paratici had travelled to the Netherlands to seek to persuade De Ligt that his future is best served by joining the Bianconeri. The media outlet added that the defender visited Juve's training complex in Vinovo last summer, and was impressed by what he saw. His signing would ensure the Vecchia Signora have a top-level replacement for Andrea Barzagli, who is to retire at the end of the season.
Real Madrid braced for potential Varane exit
Madrid have also thrown their hat into the ring. Los Blancos are on the lookout for a potential replacement for Raphaël Varane in case the Frenchman does finally leave this summer. The Dutchman would be bought with the money they receive for Varane, and would be installed as Sergio Ramos' regular defensive partner. However, he has struggled to hide his interest in signing for Madrid's arch rivals, Barça, and it seems unlikely that he'll end up at the Bernabéu.
PSG and Bayern are in the race for the teenager, too. The Germans, whose policy of going after the best young European talent continues, are out to bring in successors to centre-backs Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. Having already clinched a deal for Atlético Madrid's Lucas Hernández, the signing of De Ligt would further reduce the average age of their defence and, together with the likes of Niklas Süle and Joshua Kimmich, leave their backline sorted for the foreseeable future. It remains to be seen whether they will be willing to meet Ajax's asking price, though.
With a similar process of reconstruction underway at PSG, where captain Thiago Silva is nearly 35 and Marquinhos is now more regularly used as a holding midfielder, De Ligt has become a top target for the Ligue 1 club, as they attempt to bring in a central defender to play alongside Presnel Kimpembe in the seasons to come.
Last summer, Manchester City were another club who set their sights on De Ligt. Indeed, the Telegraph revealed that the Premier League champions' director of football, Txiki Beguiristain, held talks with Ajax, only for the player to decide to remain in Amsterdam. His future appears not to be at the Etihad Stadium.
Will cost upwards of 60 million euros
Given that De Ligt is one of Europe's most coveted centre-backs, and taking into account the recent inflation of the market, his price could end up being somewhere between 65 and 70 million euros. The amounts fetched by defenders has risen significantly in recent windows, with the likes of Hernández and Virgil van Dijk signing for Bayern and Liverpool, respectively, for large fees.