Football Features

Matthijs de Ligt: The main contenders to sign Ajax’s ‘Golden Boy’

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:00, 26 May 2019

Ajax’s brilliant young centre-back Matthijs de Ligt seems certain to leave the Amsterdam Arena this summer.

The defender, who won the coveted Golden Boy award for 2018 and is the youngest player ever to start a European final, has been the source of much discussion and debate as to his next destination.

The player himself has been discussing his immediate future with reporters of late, admitting that the Premier League and La Liga are both leagues that interest him.

He said: “Where do I see myself? Well, the Premier League is a big competition, Spain also, but you have other competitions, it’s not (just) about those two. I still don’t know anything about where my future is, so I see how it goes.”

His form in the Champions League and Nations League as Ajax and the Netherlands knocked out Real Madrid, Juventus and Germany (respectively) have only increased the sensation that he will leave.

Even Ajax’s top brass, led by sporting director Marc Overmars, have acknowledged that the defender’s future lies away from the Netherlands. However, they have always insisted that he will leave only when they want and only to the right club.

But who is that right club? Almost every single elite side across Europe’s top five leagues could do with a talent like De Ligt, and most of them have been linked with signing him. So which of them would be best for De Ligt? Where should he go? Read on and find out!

Dream: Barcelona

Ajax and Barcelona are The Clubs of Cruyff. They are the sides most shaped by the visionary’s ideas and philosophy. This has always made it easy for players to feature for both sides. Literally half of Ajax’s 1995 European Cup final winning squad went on to play for the Blaugrana. That’s 8 players! And whilst Frank Rijkaard never played there, he did manage them to win a Champions League.

Ajax’s current sporting director, Marc Overmars, was one of those eight and only injury prevented him from being a Barça legend. De Ligt’s compatriot club-mate Frenkie de Jong will be the latest player to move to Catalunya from Amsterdam, so De Ligt joining the Blaugrana makes all the sense in the world on a footballing level. He would fit right into Barça’s passing and possession-based philosophy.

Dream: Juventus

When you think of defending, there aren’t many sides you think of before Juventus. Giorgio Chiellini has been a rock-solid centre-back for so long that his debut came when De Ligt was just six years old. But Chiellini is coming to the end of his era on top, and Juventus will need someone to pick up his mantle. Someone whose physical and technical abilities are matched by an equally steely mental resolve, and who better than the kid who is Ajax captain despite being a teenager? De Ligt would be the new anchor around which Juventus could build their defence.

Who do Squawka Suggest De Ligt join?

Whilst Juventus represents an attractive opportunity in terms of the ability to hoover up league titles like crumbs on the living room floor, there isn’t that romantic attachment there. It’s a phenomenally attractive move, even if it’s unlikely that Juve have the cash to splash around given that they need to sign an elite goalkeeper as well, but it’s not Barcelona.

Not only does De Ligt have that coveted “Barça DNA,” but thanks to his Ajax roots but he’d be one of the many magnificent players to feature for both Cruyffist clubs. He’d have a great chance to win trophies every season playing an open and elegant style of play he already understands. De Ligt would also get to play alongside the likes of Gerard Piqué and Samuel Umtiti, learning from them.

Moreover, he’d have little trouble settling into the club with compatriots Jasper Cillessen and Frenkie de Jong already in Catalunya. It’s a total dream move because Barcelona have already committed £75m to Frenkie de Jong and still need to sign a striker as well. But for now it does seem like it might actually be a dream come true?

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Realistic: Liverpool

Whilst Barcelona and Juventus have masses of other transfer needs to attend to, Liverpool have a squad with very few holes in it. As such if they managed to sign Matthijs de Ligt it would be a huge boost to a side that already needs very little to push it from “great” to “holy smokes these guys are amazing!” They’ve shown a willingness to spend big on defensive players and they also have one of the most delightful managers in the world in Jurgen Klopp, and who wouldn’t want to play for him? With Liverpool just one game away from European glory, it would be impossible not to be tempted.

Realistic: Manchester United

Manchester United’s defence is crying out for a leader. They have a whole host of centre-backs who range from the good (Victor Lindelof) to the bad (Phil Jones) to whatever the hell Marcos Rojo is. But none of them are a leader, an organiser. To that end, Matthijs de Ligt would fit in perfectly and although Manchester United have lots of transfer needs this summer they also have more money than pretty much all but two clubs in the world. Also, Mino Raiola is De Ligt’s agent and Raiola has good relations with Ed Woodward. Recent reports suggest that a move to United is close but until anything is confirmed, all bets are off.

Who do Squawka Suggest De Ligt join?

United would be good, even at De Ligt’s young age he would become the best defender in the team and the instant leader of the back-line. He’d be a hero to the Stretford End and could be the bedrock of that defence for the next decade. But if he joined Liverpool he would become a hero to the Kop, continue playing Champions League football over United’s Europa League journey next season and, whilst he’d still play whenever fit and become an essential part of the side, he’d get to partner Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk is his captain and partner for the Netherlands national team, and the same man who is such a fantastic inspirational figure that De Ligt has been quoted as saying “it could happen,” when asked about joining him at Anfield. What a superb duo De Ligt and Van Dijk could become for years to come, Oranje heroes in Red together. Given Liverpool’s lack of other needs this is an eminently realistic transfer.

Wildcard: Bayern Munich

De Ligt has been linked with Bayern Munich and it’s easy to see why. With Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels on the decline, Bayern will be desperate for a partner alongside the young Niklas Sule. De Ligt would be another Dutch legend at Bayern after Arjen Robben, Roy Makaay and Mark van Bommel. He’d provide the silk alongside Sule’s steel and anchor the defence for a decade.

Wildcard: PSG

When Barcelona stole Frenkie de Jong out from under PSG’s nose, the French side swore “revenge” and a big part of that plot was to get Matthijs de Ligt. Of course, it also helps that De Ligt is a phenomenal centre-back destined to be one of the best in the world for many a year, but vengeance is PSG’s primary motivation. And they definitely have the money to burn even if centre-back isn’t a position of huge need.

Who do Squawka Suggest De Ligt join?
Bayern Munich

PSG’s prestige is not currently where they want it to be and their attraction as a sporting destination is limited. Sure there will be some players who like the idea of sleepwalking to a domestic treble every year whilst picking up a huge paycheck, but that doesn’t tickle everyone’s fancy and De Ligt in particular has said money doesn’t motivate him.

Meanwhile, Bayern are a historic club. A legendary side. De Ligt playing for them would represent domestic dominance ala PSG but with the kind of history and legacy that the Parisians don’t have. He could also form part of one of the meanest young defences ever with Benjamin Pavard, Niklas Sule and Bayern’s other transfer target: Lucas Hernández. Of course, the fact that Bayern are primed to spend around €90m on their defence bringing Pavard and Lucas in means that it would one hell of a wildcard move for De Ligt to join them.