Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt has confirmed he will be one of Europe’s most wanted footballers this summer.
The 19-year-old Netherlands international defender is expected to leave Amsterdam this summer with Manchester United heavily associated with his signature.
De Ligt’s rise: Five key things to know…
- A graduate of Ajax’s illustrious academy, De Ligt made his first-team debut in a Dutch Cup game against Willem II in September 2016, aged 17.
- He would score after 25 minutes, making him the club’s second-youngest goalscorer behind Clarence Seedorf.
- To date, he’s made 117 appearances for the Dutch giants; scoring 13 goals in total.
- De Ligt is also the youngest player to start for the Dutch national team after debuting away to Bulgaria (aged 17) in March 2017.
- De Ligt played an instrumental role in Ajax winning their 34th league title and reaching the Champions League semi-finals this season.
Despite not turning 20 until August, the expectation is De Ligt has played his final game for boyhood club, Ajax, whom he guided to a record 34th Dutch championship.
A number of Europe’s super clubs are reported to be following him, with Barcelona strongly tipped as the likeliest destination, especially after they signed compatriot, teammate and close friend Frenkie de Jong.
However, the current Golden Boy will not be cheap, with Ajax hoping to make him the world’s most expensive defender, that honour currently belongs to De Ligt’s international central defensive partner, Virgil van Dijk.
De Ligt, to his credit, has taken all these swirling rumours in his stride and not allowed it to impact his on-field performances, but with the new season on the horizon, Leiderdorp’s favourite son is to make that future clear and heading into the Netherlands’ semi-final meeting with England in the UEFA Nations League, he’s confirmed what many have expected.
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“I am very excited about what the nearest future may bring me, but I am also calm, I see it as a challenge, that is the most important thing,” he told RTL Boulevard.
“There are several options, what I do is to see which is the best option, it seems logical that one option is better than the other.”
As much as Ajax supporters would love to have one of their own remain, manager Erik ten Hag believes there’s a zero per cent chance of De Ligt leading out his team in their 2019/20 campaign.
So, where could we see De Ligt play? Barcelona, as mentioned, is his dream next step. But it could be infeasible given the economics of his transfer. Manchester United, who seemingly have money to burn and are determined to strengthen, is a possible destination but they are lacking Champions League football.
Europe’s other national champions – Juventus, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain – are also options, though one wonders if De Ligt sees himself developing strongly at either one of those clubs.
Liverpool and Manchester City, who many expect to once again fight over the Premier League title next season, have also been touted. The former boasts De Ligt’s national team central defensive partner in crime, Van Dijk.