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Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal will reportedly rival Barcelona for the services of Ajax defender Matthijs De Ligt, who continues to be linked with the Catalan giants.
Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo (h/t Calciomercato.com) has reported on the links between the Dutchman and Blaugrana at length since last year, and it has done so again, adding the Premier League trio to the mix, per Calciomercato.
De Ligt has been a regular for Ajax since 2016 and has been one of the standouts for the team in the past year, despite being just 18 years old. He’s also a full Netherlands international and widely regarded as the nation’s top defensive talent.
A product of Ajax’s famed academy, De Ligt combines defensive prowess and great physical strength with the technical abilities people have come to expect from graduates of the club. He routinely plays a part in the attack and has excellent passing range to all parts of the field.
The teenager is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, as you can see in this video:
Many of the links between De Ligt and Barcelona came before the January transfer window, when the Catalans had a huge depth issue in defence and Javier Mascherano was on the verge of leaving. The Blaugrana have since added Yerry Mina to the squad, however, reducing their need for more defenders.
De Ligt is more than just a depth option, however. He’s five years younger than Mina and arguably already a better player―his upside is that of a world-class centre-back who could lead the team for the better part of two decades.
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City also added to their defensive options in January, bringing in Aymeric Laporte, but, like Barcelona, they usually do a good job of purchasing promising youngsters before their value rises too high.
United would love to develop De Ligt alongside Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly, two strong and talented options who lack the passing range and distribution skills of De Ligt. Bleacher Report’s Rob Blanchette wants additions to the squad:
Rob Blanchette @_Rob_B
Think centreback is a catastrophic issue for #MUFC. It’s not just ‘the art of defending’ – but it’s also the distribution and intelligence from the back. I like Bailly but don’t think he fulfils this criteria either. Need a world class centreback in the summer to lead us #MUFC
His playing style and Ajax roots make Barcelona the best fit, and in all likelihood the links will continue to surface. The Catalans appear set at centre-back, with Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti forming a strong duo, but the former is 31 years old and will start to regress at some point in the near future―investing in his future replacement is never a bad idea.