Europe's leading clubs vie for De Ligt
Dutch prodigy Matthijs de Ligt is at the middle of an almighty tug of war as Europe's leading clubs vie for his signature this summer. The centre-back is just 19 years of age, but he has already been made Ajax captain and he led them to an Eredivisie and KNVB Cup double in 2018/19. He also excelled during the team's run to the Champions League semi-finals and that has made him arguably the world's hottest prospect right now. PSG and Barcelona are the frontrunners in the race to snap him up, but other big clubs could yet gatecrash the party.
Barca were the early favourites to sign de Ligt after they completed a deal to bring teammate Frenkie de Jong to the Nou Camp. It could rise to €86 million, but it is a reflection of the vast potential he possesses. De Ligt is rated just as highly, if not higher, and Barcelona have a long track record of signing Dutch stars from Ajax, so it seemed a natural destination. Yet oil-rich PSG have evidently stolen a march on the Catalan club and the sportsbooks are offering soccer transfer odds now make the Parisians the odds-on favourites to capture his signature.
It would make a great deal of sense for PSG. They already have an outrageously talented offensive line – Kylian Mbappe and Neymar may be agitating for moves away from the French capital, but PSG most all the cards there – and it could be time to bolster the defence. The club suffered a bit of a meltdown towards the end of last season following their surprise Champions League defeat at the hands of Man Utd. Their league form tailed off dramatically and, although they still claimed the Ligue 1 title, they lost to unfancied Rennes in the cup final.
Now could be time for a bit of a rebuild. Thiago Silva, their defensive stalwart for the past seven seasons, is now 34 years old and his career is firmly in its twilight. Who better to replace him than the most exciting centre-back in world football? PSG have deep enough pockets to afford him, and the colossal wages on offer could be a tempting prospect for a young man like de Ligt. He should have 15 years at the top and he already has plenty of winner's medals, so he can afford to take a gamble on moving to Paris if PSG is the highest bidder.
Man Utd are also trying to muscle their way into the process, and that looks like a much riskier option. The Red Devils have not won the Premier League, Champions League or FA Cup since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013, and they have finished seventh, fourth, fifth, sixth, second and sixth in that time. They are not playing in the Champions League next season, Paul Pogba is trying to leave the club and results were dreadful under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the honeymoon period ended last season.
Outsiders in the race are Man City, Liverpool and Bayern Munich. The German champions could not afford him, but either Premier League giant would be a great option. Imagine him partnering international teammate Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of the Reds defence? They could conquer Europe again with that defensive pairing. Or he could massively improve Man City, who have just waved goodbye to long standing captain Vincent Kompany and need a replacement like de Ligt. Juventus is another option and he would be all but guaranteed silverware in Serie A, while the prospect of linking up with Cristiano Ronaldo would be appealing. He has his pick of great clubs and it will be fascinating to see which one he chooses.