Even though the 2019 summer transfer window is yet to officially open, that hasn’t stopped some deals already being all but completed – to be rubber-stamped from July 1.
Many others are at various stages of development, but one that’s already threatening to turn into this summer’s ‘soap opera’ is the capture of Ajax captain, Matthijs De Ligt.
The 19-year-old is a wanted man, and with good reason, but at this juncture he’s been quoted as saying he still hasn’t made up his mind where he wants to play.
Manchester United and Liverpool have been linked, should the Dutchman consider a move to the Premier League, Cristiano Ronaldo personally asked the youngster to join Juventus after Portugal’s win over Holland in the Nations League and Paris Saint-Germain have made no secret of their desire to acquire his services.
Of those sides, Liverpool might seem like the best destination, given that they’re the current Champions League holders and Jurgen Klopp is building something special on Merseyside.
United have a rich history too, but with no Champions League football in 2018/19 and a project that’s at a completely different stage, they’re unlikely to appeal.
PSG will pay De Ligt well over the odds, but he’s already been quoted as saying that the move won’t be based on money. In any event, the French side’s continuous failure in Europe has to be a deal breaker to any player with an ounce of ambition.
Juventus are an interesting proposition, but given that there are no real challenges for them domestically, and the slow, catenaccio style of Italian football won’t really suit him, it would be a surprise to see the youngster pitch up in Serie A.
Which leaves Barcelona. A team who play in the same way as De Ligt has during his entire career.
Johan Cruyff’s imprint is all over both Ajax and Barca, and though competition for places will be fierce, De Ligt will have the advantage of knowing that he could slot straight into central defence.
From a developmental point of view, there isn’t a better team to sign for than the Catalans, although initially he may struggle to get games.
Gerard Pique has just played one of the best seasons of his career, and longer term, De Ligt would be his replacement. The Catalan just isn’t going anywhere soon.
Clement Lenglet was in good form too in 2018/19, and if Samuel Umtiti and Jean-Clair Todibo don’t leave, there will be five centre-backs competing for two places.
De Ligt has been clear in that he wants to play a decent number of games from the off and won’t be happy playing second fiddle for the entire campaign.
With players of his calibre rarely becoming available for purchase, particularly one who is so well suited, Barcelona really have to do everything they can to persuade him.
In return they’ll get a leader of men, a ball-playing central defender who is superb in the air, fearless in the tackle and who can pick a pass with ease.