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De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of proposed Juventus move

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s recruiting tactics with Matthijs de Ligt during the UEFA Nations League final appears to have worked.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Juventus posted a video on the club’s social media accounts that shows de Ligt arriving in Turin, Italy on a private jet, likely to sign his contract and get started with the club. It’s a huge precursor to an announcement for one of the top targets of this summer’s transfer market, and it represents a huge coup for Juventus.

Just a month ago or so, Juventus were on the outside looking in, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, and even Manchester United and Manchester City all mentioned in the race to sign the Netherlands and Ajax star centerback. And yet, PSG, which appeared in the lead at one point, lost ground to Juventus, and de Ligt now gets to compete alongside Ronaldo after facing him twice over the past season.

It’s the latest move in the incredible rise of de Ligt over the past three years. De Ligt was promoted to Ajax’s first team as a 17-year-old, and pretty quickly established himself as a huge talent for the Netherlands. Then Netherlands National Team coach Danny Blind called up de Ligt to start in a crunch World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria, with the Netherlands desperate for some defensive answers.

It’s didn’t exactly go well.

And yet, de Ligt has overcome those experiences and raised his game to new levels each of the last two years. Alongside Davinson Sanchez, Ajax made it to the Europa League final, and last year, de Ligt scored as Ajax defeated Juventus on the way to the UEFA Champions League semifinals. Ajax was just a few minutes away from the finals before Tottenham’s late winner.

At the same time, along with Virgil Van Dijk, they form one of the strongest centerback partnerships in Europe, and look set to lead the Netherlands to UEFA Euro 2020.

As mentioned before, it’s a massive get for de Ligt, assuming that the soon-to-be 20-year-old can settle in Turin. Juventus’ defensive corps continues to grow older, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini both well into their 30s. De Ligt’s arrival can help give some stability at the back and allow Juventus to transition to the next generation of centerbacks.

Report: Ajax in negotiations to sign El Tri’s Alvarez

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One of the Mexico National Team’s brightest stars appears to be heading to Ajax, where he could potentially be the replacement for one Matthijs de Ligt.

According to a report in Voetbol International, a publication in the Netherlands, Ajax technical director Marc Overmars confirmed the club’s interest in signing Club America and El Tri defender Edson Alvarez. Club America are reportedly demanding nothing less than nearly $17 million for Alvarez, who has in just two years become a regular for El Tri.

[READ: USMNT’s Boyd signs with Besiktas]

The report states that Wolverhampton Wanderers – which has Alvarez’s El Tri teammate Raul Jimenez – and PSV Eindhoven were also interesting in signing Alvarez.

The 21-year-old made his debut for Club America as a right back under long-time Liga MX manager Ricardo La Volpe in 2016, and just a few months after his club debut, he was already playing for the national team. He was included and featured at the 2017 Gold Cup, becoming Mexico’s youngest scorer in the competition (at age 19) and he then started all four of Mexico’s games at the 2018 World Cup, including against Neymar and Brazil in the Round of 16.

Alvarez has continued his strong play over the past year and has moved into more of a centerback and holding midfielder role at times. He played as a No. 6 for Mexico in its 1-0 win over the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2019 Gold Cup final, at times dropping into the back line to defend while providing support in the attack.

As Alvarez is still young but continues to grow, it’s a perfect time for him to join Ajax. There, he’ll face even better attackers than in Liga MX, and he’ll have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to play for a prestigious club like Ajax. The pressure to perform will only make him better, like it’s helped countryman Hirving “Chucky” Lozano across the Netherlands at PSV Eindhoven.

Interestingly, Alvarez would be the second summer signing for Ajax with a North American connection. Defender Kik Pierie was actually born in Boston, while his father was studying at Harvard Medical School, though he’s been raised almost entirely in the Netherlands and has featured for the Oranje internationally.

Ajax exec Overmars makes Ziyech sales pitch to Arsenal

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Ajax technical director Marc Overmars has made a public pitch to Arsenal for winger Hakim Ziyech, who he believes would be high enough class to directly replace Mesut Ozil at a fraction of the cost.

The 46-year-old Dutchman, a former Gunner during his playing days when he spent three seasons at Highbury, made a bold and direct statement, calling out his old club to make a change in the attack that he believes will benefit them greatly. In fact, he insinuated that the two sides already spoke, but he was rebuffed, a surprising result to the Dutchman.

“I am a bit surprised that it is still so quiet around Hakim,” Overmars told Dutch publication Voetbal International. “I think he has played better every year and his statistics are exceptionally good. Many clubs are increasingly looking at that.”

It’s no surprise the technical director of a selling club is playing up one of his players, but it was only just beginning for Overmars, who specifically said Arsenal should rethink its strategy. “I think Hakim Ziyech is better than Mesut Ozil. I would say sell him and you will get Hakim for half [the price]. But they [Arsenal] didn’t listen to me. So it could just be that he stays with Ajax.”

It’s certainly quite a shock to see such a brazen public statement from an executive when most involved in transfer dealings are all too happy to keep the inside information out of view.

Ozil, who turns 31 in October, is a polarizing figure at Arsenal, where he has produced a host of brilliant and glittering moments but also gone missing for extended periods of a long season. He has failed to truly push Arsenal towards a genuine title challenge since arriving from Real Madrid in 2013, having secured just three FA Cup titles in his time at the Emirates, a relatively disappointing haul at a club that prides itself as one of the biggest in the English game.

The 26-year-old Ziyech is one of the stars of Ajax’s surprising Champions League run this season, helping the club reach the seemifinals and serving as an experienced presence in a squad bursting with young talent. He scored five goals and assisted four more in 17 Champions League matches and added another fantastic Eredivise haul to his wonderful season, scoring 16 league goals and assisting 17 more in 29 top-flight matches. Ziyech has 12 goals in 23 international matches for Morocco and started all four of their matches in this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations, failing to find the back of the net before the country was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Benin.

In the interview, Overmars also lauded David Neres for rejecting a move to China last winter, pointing out how well it worked out for both the club and player, with Ajax reaching far into the Champions League and Neres earning an international call-up.

Matthijs de Ligt left off Ajax roster for start of preseason

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Matthijs de Ligts name was very noticeably absent from the 28-man list of players headed to Austria for the first leg of Ajax’s preseason preparations, further fueling speculation that a transfer to Juventus is nearing completion.

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Alderweireld to Roma, Haller to West Ham ]

Ajax announced the squad on Saturday with while the likes of fellow rising stars Donny van de Beek, David Neres and Nicolas Tagliafico also not included, though transfer rumors involving players not named De Ligt have been much fewer and farther between.

De Ligt, the captain and remaining crown-jewel prospect, has appeared headed for the exit door since for quite some time.

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid to legally contest Griezmann’s transfer to Barcelona ]

Juventus are reportedly ready to pay $84 million for De Ligt’s services, making him the second-most expensive defender in the history of transfers, behind only Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk.

Reports: Matthijs de Ligt closes in on imminent Juventus move

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According to multiple reports all across Europe, the highly contested, highly public, and at times highly awkward Matthijs de Ligt saga is coming to an imminent close.

Dutch publication De Telegraaf reported early on Thursday that the 19-year-old defender and his agents are nearing a conclusion with the Serie A giants, with a fee finally decided upon. The report states that the breakthrough came when Juventus decided to fork over $84 million, which equals the fee that Barcelona had offered to Ajax before talks with the Spanish side broke down nearly a month ago.

In fact, talks are nearing a conclusion quickly enough that De Ligt could reportedly be unveiled as a Juventus player as early as Saturday, which the Italian side is aiming for. That would likely give him time to join the first-team squad in Singapore where they are preparing to play in the International Champions Cup, with their first match scheduled for July 21.

Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio reports that De Ligt has already agreed to terms with Juventus, speeding up the move even further. His contract is five years in length, and will pay him $13.5 million per season. That is significantly lower than the $17 million per season reported by Di Marzio back in mid-June when Juventus was first rumored to be entering the mix. It is possible the club decided to decrease its salary offer in exchange for some image rights, but that has not been mentioned in any reports to this point. The inflated contract offer reported by Di Marzio initially would have made De Ligt the second-highest paid player at the club behind Cristiano Ronaldo, which could have potentially unsettled the squad.

Juventus is a fabulous landing spot for the Dutch teen who has looked unbeatable for much of the last two years, but also at times is mistake-prone. He can fight for first-team minutes while also learning from some legends of the game nearing the end of their careers such as Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. Gianluigi Buffon has also returned to the club and could be a positive influence on De Ligt as he grows towards the prime of his career.

De Ligt has reported to preseason training with the Ajax squad as his transfer talks dragged on, proving awkward for just about everyone involved.

Should the move eventually be completed this summer, the Juventus defense would be absolutely bursting at the seams, and De Ligt will need to work hard to find time on the field. The squad is coming off a season where they conceded a measly 30 goals in 38 matches en route to its 8th straight Scudetto, and adding De Ligt to a back line that already includes Chiellini, Bonucci, Daniele Rugani, and 21-year-old Turkish international Merih Demiral all centrally positioned would be monstrous. Add in Alex Sandro, Joao Cancelo, Mattia de Sciglio, and a new arrival in 20-year-old Italian youth international Luca Pellegrini all on the flank, and the Juventus defense looks primed to not just blitz through the Italian top flight yet again, but challenge for the Champions League crown.