After a fabulous season where the young defender has really come of age in becoming one of the best in his position on the planet, the hugely sought after teenager Matthijs de Ligt has decided to go on his summer holiday this week with a huge grey cloud of uncertainty (all be it with a rainbow full of gold at the foot of it) hanging over his future.
The Ajax centre half born in August 1999 first came of prominence during the 2016/17 campaign as he helped his side reach the final of the Europa League before losing to Manchester United where he performed well alongside Davinson Sanchez at centre half in proudly becoming the youngest player ever to appear in a major European final.
The following season he became the youngest ever captain of Ajax and has shown leadership skills and maturity since beyond his years which has boosted his appeal to many of the leading clubs across Europe.
This season gone, has been a huge success for de Ligt personally and for Ajax too who became champions and double winners in Holland and but for an injury time exit against Spurs might have reached the final of the UEFA Champions League punching way above their weight along the way amongst the continents elite.
Now worth an estimated £75m de Ligt has recently forged an impressive partnership at the heart of the Netherlands defence with Virgil van Dijk and having reached the UEFA Nations League final in Portugal at the weekend many are already touting the pair as the best defensive duo in international football.
Not bad considering the Liederdorp born 19 year old only made his Eredivisie debut a couple of months short of three years ago.
Today, de Ligt is the most sought after defender in world football and although his heart will remain with Ajax forever, the team he’s grown up with as a boy playing the way that has taught generations before him, he now has the emphatic decision of which of the worlds best football teams to choose from for his next destination.
Barcelona were largely touted to have wanted de Ligt long term and los Blaugrana have already snapped up his Ajax teammate Frenkie de Jong. But Manchester City have had their say too, although Juventus also put their hat in the mix, this before the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United got involved… Now Paris Saint-Germain look good to get the most wanted Dutchman since the Freddy Heineken kidknappers back in 1983.
For de Ligt and for me the choice is simply about heart or head, should he stay at Ajax and be loyal to those who adore him or does he move on to better his imminent career? Can he improve with Ajax, whilst staying in Amsterdam is ideally what de Ligt and his family would like as he continues to progress as a footballer, does the famous old club have what it takes to help him further his career with them? Or does he need to be playing elite football in one of Europe’s biggest leagues week in week out to get the recognition and rewards he’s now due?
I’ve talked about the inevitable break up of Ajax before and I feel it is sad that we probably won’t ever see the best that this young side can offer as it will be dismantled too soon… For de Ligt he must not stay during this process as labouring over his future in an ever-changing team may dent his own future progression, but I understand totally his reluctance to leave a side, his DNA and his people at such an early stage in his career for a big money move, a big monumental transfer fee and to what is likely to be a big big super club in world football too.
Personally I hope it’s Barcelona or Liverpool as the best deserve to play for the best. Maybe the European Champions could tempt him for what would be a dream defensive partnership at club and international level but I would like to think he’s better than Paris Saint-Germain. Whilst Manchester City may opt out due to reducing their financial outlay, I wonder if a move to them might also be put off by any potential European ban that looms over them. I don’t think cross town neighbours Manchester United is a serious candidate and although Juventus could be attractive, the lack of any serious rival they have in Serie A may put him off from moving to Turin.
The exciting thing for Matthijs de Ligt however is that he can go absolutely where he likes. Not many footballers will ever have such a choice which is a testament to the season he’s had and the way he has grown and established himself as one of the worlds leading defenders.
Wherever he goes, he’ll be a star for many years I’m sure.