Ajax is making a dream run through the Champions League, having already taken down Real Madrid and Juventus to reach the semifinals where they are matched up with Tottenham Hotspur. While this run ultimately may cost them a load of youth talent this summer with rich clubs coming in to pick off the biggest names, it will likely net the Dutch club a fortune.
Midfielder Frenkie de Jong, hailed as one of the top young talents in the entire world at 21 years old, has already secured a switch to Barcelona for a reported $84 million, but he is likely the first of many out the door.
19-year-old teammate Matthijs de Ligt, a central defender who has already secured captaincy of this dream squad despite his young age, is another top talent on the team who has been linked to big clubs all over Europe in recent weeks. He made his national team debut as a 17-year-old, and has proven himself imposing in the air and lockdown in man coverage.
While de Jong made headlines with his move to Barcelona, one Ajax coach believes de Ligt could be an even bigger catch for whoever snatches him up this summer. “He [de Ligt] can easily come to the Premier League and play for every team in the world,” said youth team assistant manager Ronald de Boer, brother of Dutch legend and current Atlanta United boss Frank De Boer, in an interview with TalkSport. “Frenkie De Jong went for €75m and that can go up to €85m with Barcelona but in my opinion De Ligt is further in his qualities and more ready to make that step than Frenkie De Jong.”
De Boer says that not only is de Ligt’s play on the pitch beyond his years, he also shows a maturity off the field, critical to handle the pressure of playing at one of Europe’s biggest clubs. “You see him in front of the cameras and his interviews, for me, a 19-year-old boy, I have never seen this before,” de Boer said. “I mean he is so strong. So determined to be a winner. Unbelievable.”
Moving to Liverpool is something de Boer mentioned as a potential positive for the Dutch national team because he could play full-time with a fellow Dutch defender Virgil Van Dijk, as the two currently form the preferred center-back partnership on the international level.
Nevertheless, de Boer is just happy to see a player excel at the top level, and he has some advice. “For de Ligt it is up to him. He has to look at a team for him and find out what he wants. Does he want a team that has fun and most of the time on the ball, that’s nice, or he goes to a team that gives it away. For me, Barcelona, Man City, Liverpool…Liverpool wants the ball, [so does] Paris Saint-Germain. Those are teams I would give him advice to go there. All the other teams, including Tottenham, are great teams to play for.”