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Juventus will reportedly consider alternatives to Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt, with the Italian champions said to be concerned they will be priced out of signing the defender.
According to Romeo Agresti of Goal, while there is interest in the Dutch international from the Bianconeri, they are unsure about parting with the kind of money that would make a deal feasible. Ajax want in excess of €50 million (£43 million) before agreeing to sell their star defender, it’s added.
Juventus are said to have been ready to rival the likes of Manchester City and Barcelona in pursuit of the centre-back, with talks reportedly held between the Serie A side and De Ligt’s agent Mino Raiola.
However, with the deal looking like it will be a costly one, the Bianconeri appear to be putting some contingency plans in place.
“One option is believed to be Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic, with the Serbia international having impressed for La Viola so far this season,” said Agresti. “This is not the first time Juve have considered signing the 21-year-old, as Milenkovic’s name was brought up during their negotiations over Marko Pjaca’s move to Florence over the summer.”
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While Milenkovic is clearly a talent and a player with great potential, his emergence hasn’t triggered the same buzz as De Ligt’s rise.
The 19-year-old Ajax star has all the attributes to be a generational talent, having been part of the first team in Amsterdam since the 2016-17 season.
He’s also the crown jewel of an excellent crop of Dutch youngsters making their mark at international level:
Scouted Football @ScoutedFtbl
🇳🇱 Matthijs de Ligt (19)
🇳🇱 Javairô Dilrosun (20)
🇳🇱 Donny van de Beek (21)
🇳🇱 Steven Bergwijn (21)
🇳🇱 Frenkie de Jong (21)
🇳🇱 Pablo Rosario (21)
🇳🇱 Denzel Dumfries (22)
🇳🇱 Nathan Aké (23)
🇳🇱 Kenny Tete (23)
🇳🇱 Tonny Vilhena (23)
10 players aged 23-or-under in total. https://t.co/40jDdx33d2
De Ligt has been exceptional in the Eredivisie and the UEFA Europa League in the past, showcasing remarkable composure and authority despite being in the nascent stages of his career.
He has made a step forward in his development this season, showing he can be a defensive linchpin for the Netherlands and performing well in the UEFA Champions League. All the indications point to a player who would excel at Juve, City or Barcelona.
Stylistically, he’s a centre-back in the modern mould:
Matthijs de Ligt: Has a better pass success rate (91.8%) than any other player aged 23 and under in the Eredivisie this season
For more player stats — https://t.co/oISzb2xYTa https://t.co/6RtQTNDW6A
A fee of €50 million may seem excessive, although if there are a number of clubs vying for his signature, it would be no surprise if Ajax set their valuation high.
Juventus are one of the best defensive sides in Europe, although David Amoyal noted they may need a replacement for their stalwart centre-back Andrea Barzagli soon:
David Amoyal @DavidAmoyal
Father Time is undefeated even when up against a great defender like Barzagli
De Ligt would potentially be a long-term successor not only to Barzagli, but Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
At 19, there’s still a lot of developing for him to do to reach those standards, although if any defender in the game is going to scale those heights, De Ligt is among them.
Juventus have shown in past pursuits of stars like Gianluigi Buffon and Cristiano Ronaldo that they’re ready to pay big money for the right player, too.