Manchester United transfer news: Matthijs de Ligt still key target despite Barcelona and Juventus competition

The 19-year-old defender is highly coveted by the three teams, who all hope to sign him from Ajax this summer

Luke Brown
Monday 03 June 2019 12:56
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In the space of just a few short months 19-year-old Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has gone from a talented prospect to the most coveted defender in world football.

The teenager was not even considered a regular starter at the Johan Cruijff ArenA at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign, but was handed his chance when Davinson Sánchez made a £42m move to Tottenham Hotspur.

It was at that point that De Ligt was promoted to Ajax’s starting XI, and before the campaign was out he had been named club captain after an injury to Joël Veltman.

De Ligt’s profile rose even further when he won the coveted Golden Boy award in December 2018, becoming the first ever defender to receive the honour, and his outstanding performances in the Champions League caught the eye of Europe’s biggest and best.

Barcelona and Manchester United are understood to be the frontrunners for his signature, but the Italian media are also claiming Juventus are considering a bid. Here, we round-up all of this summer’s De Ligt rumours and rate the chances those clubs have of signing him this summer.

Barcelona remain highly confident they will secure the signing of De Ligt this summer, amid competition from all over Europe.

Barcelona have already secured the signing of midfield star Frenkie de Jong, and sources say there has already been significant progress with De Ligt ahead of a move for around £60m. The Catalans feel they have persuaded the centre-half that the Nou Camp is the best place for his future, with that only emphasised by the existing connection between the club and Ajax.

Barcelona are the front-runners for his signature

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has been bullish over his club’s chances of landing the teenage sensation. “Each year the club has an interest in making signings and this summer will be the same,” he said in April. “De Ligt, like the other best players, is on the table. He is a great player and a great centre-back. I know what will happen with him but it's not the moment [to talk].”

However, in recent days reports from both Spain and the Netherlands have suggested the move is not as solid as it once seemed. Barcelona are known to view the Dutchman as Gerard Pique’s long-term successor, but De Ligt is reportedly concerned he would not automatically be a first-choice starter upon joining the club.

The teenager has been taken Spanish lessons for over a year, but is believed to have been questioning whether a move to Barcelona is the best course of action for him for a few months now. The Camp Nou remains his most likely destination – but there certainly seems to be an opportunity for another club to turn his head.

Chances of signing for Barcelona: 8/10

United want to finally bring in a new centre-half this summer, and neither they nor champions Manchester City have yet completely ruled out the possibility of signing De Ligt.

United are currently waiting anxiously on news from De Ligt having been told by the player’s representatives to expect a decision from the teenager in the coming days.

United are determined to sign the youngster

The teenage Dutch defender wants to go to Barcelona, but that deal is not yet concluded, and United are willing to offer huge money to tempt him. It is understood his entourage are at least seeing what else is out there.

It has meanwhile been claimed in the Dutch press that some at Ajax believe a move to United would be better for De Ligt’s development. He would be an automatic starter at United and is aware of how Pique completely transformed his game during his own four year stay in Manchester.

United naturally have the financial firepower to complete the deal and are desperate to make a marquee signing this summer. Now all they need is for the player himself to decide against joining De Johg in Barcelona.

Chances of signing for United: 6/10

Juventus are another club interesting in signing De Ligt and reports in Italy this weekend claimed that the Serie A champions have already lodged a £75m bid.

According to Italian publication Tuttosport, Juve have attempted to steal a march on their European rivals by becoming the first club to make a formal offer to Ajax.

Could Juventus steal a march on Barca and United?

De Ligt’s preference appears to be a move to either Barcelona or United – but earlier in the season he did speak warmly of the Italian club leading to speculation he may be interested in a move.

“I really like [Giorgio] Chiellini, as he is one of the best defenders in the world. I also appreciate [Leonardo] Bonucci, so between them they are among the best centre-backs in Europe,” he said.

“I could join them at Juventus, but we'll see at the right moment. For now, I am focused on Ajax and not my future. My agent is taking care of that.”

Chances of signing for Juventus: 5/10

And what has De Ligt said?

“I’m very excited for what could be coming in the near future.

“But I am calm too. I see it as a challenge, that’s the most important thing. There are various options, what I’m doing is looking for the best option.”

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