Transfer Special: Ajax Edition - Where will De Ligt end up? Is he worth it?
We sat down with @Ajaxtimes to discuss the future of their in-demand centre half Matthijs De Ligt and much more.... Make sure you give them a follow over on their twitter page (@Ajaxtimes) to keep updated on all things Ajax!
Firstly, what are your thoughts on the De Ligt situation?
AjaxTimes: The whole De Ligt situation is as big as it is mainly due to the media blowing it up. It's obvious he's a hot commodity. Being one of the bigger talents of his generation and getting linked to the likes of Barcelona, Juventus, PSG and Manchester United is bound to get you massive media attention. Other than that, it's your usual transfer window turmoil.
Do you believe there is any chance he stays at Ajax?
AjaxTimes: That doesn't seem very likely. At the end of the season Marc Overmars and Ajax have taken a stance, stating they are aiming to keep the squad together as much as possible and not allowing too many players too leave. They even want to try and see if they can upgrade the players' contracts to get them to stay, much like they did with Onana and Tagliafico. However, considering the talent that De Ligt is, with these European giants battling over his signature and the amount of money involved, it's almost impossible to convince him to stay in Amsterdam for another season. Besides that, he needs to take a step up in competition in order to develop further. He'll probably get better from playing against the likes of Napoli, Tottenham Hotspur or Valencia on a rainy Thursday night, instead of Fortuni Sittard or FC Emmen.
How good is the young centre half? Is he truly as good as some will have us believe?
AjaxTimes: The hype is real. Because he's been such a constant factor and already has such a high number of appearances behind his name for Ajax and the Dutch national team, you'd almost forget he's just 19 years of age. If he stays healthy and fit, he is bound to become one of the best - if not the best - defender in the world. He truly got it all.
Where do you believe would be the best move for him?
AjaxTimes: Rationally, I like to believe Juventus would be the ideal club for De Ligt's development. A dominant team who are always considered a contender in Europe, and in a country where defending is a true form of art. Plus, he could learn from the likes of Chiellini and Bonucci, which doesn't hurt. Emotionally however, I'd like to see him join Barcelona. There's the link between Ajax and Barça, Johan Cruijff, that entire backstory, but also because it would be great to see him team up with Frenkie and be part of a new era of Catalan dominance.
There has been a lot of English interest. De Ligt in the past has praised the Premier League. Is this a move that could suit the young man?
AjaxTimes: De Ligt would be right at home in the Premier League. Not only is he tall and physically strong, which seem to be necessary traits to succeed as a centre-back in England, but he also has his ball-playing skills which would distinguish him from other defenders.
A lot has been made of his super agent Mino Raoila’s involvement. Do you believe he was the main factor the Barcelona move seemingly broke down?
AjaxTimes: No, I don't. Raiola has a strong reputation and large parts of that are likely to be true, but in the end Matthijs de Ligt is the only one to decide where he wants to go. The media make it out to be as if De Ligt is chasing the best financial deal, but I seriously doubt that. He isn't like that at all. He's very serious about his professional career and becoming the best version of himself. He wants to be assured of first team football, which is probably a demand Barcelona cannot meet. Raiola is a pain in the ass and surely after the biggest amount of cash, but I don't think that's the reason why the Barça deal broke down (if that's even true).
Aside from De Ligt, do you see any other potential outgoings at Ajax?
AjaxTimes: There are some players who have generated plenty of interest and could be on their way out. Hakim Ziyech was looking to leave last season and came close to joining AS Roma, but that move fell through and he decided to stay. It's no secret he'll look to take a step again this summer. Then there's David Neres, who has made quite the name for himself this season, and is now tearing it up with the Brazilian national team. He was close to a 50 million move to China in January, and is bound to attract lots of attention again this summer. Donny van de Beek could be on his way out, also having gone through a strong development this season, but is more likely to stay for another year. Overmars already stated he hopes to convince Donny to stay in Amsterdam by upgrading his contract.
There has been a surprisingly lack of suitors for Ziyech despite his fantastic season, what do you think is behind the lack of interest?
AjaxTimes: You would expect more interest for Ziyech, but at the same time there's always been this slight aura of doubt around his persona. This might also have to do with the way Dutch media like to portray him, but some people feel Ziyech has a strong and at times negative character. While that doesn't seem to be the case - he simply doesn't allow media training to decide how he acts, he's very authentic - it might play a part in the fact he hasn't left for a bigger league yet. Besides that, Ziyech can be really hit or miss. He takes a lot of risks in his passing. When that works, he's absolutely genius, but it tends to look really bad when it doesn't. But while he might not be good enough for the European elite, teams just below that category could all use him really well.
Finally, following the potential departures where do Ajax go from here? Can last season be repeated?
AjaxTimes: It's going to be a tough task to repeat the performances of last season. Many Ajax fans had already given up on the chance of ever reaching this far in the Champions League again. The (financial) differences between the Eredivisie and the biggest 5 European leagues are simply too big. However, different from earlier seasons, Ajax are willing to invest a lot of money (for our standards, at least) to make sure we'll have another Champions League worthy team on the pitch next season. I feel we should be able to reach the Champions League group stage at the very least (which was also considered quite the feat a few years back) and everything beyond that is a bonus. No matter how much money we're going to be spending, you cannot replace once-in-a-lifetime talents like Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt.