Barcelona are reportedly keen to improve their defensive options in the January transfer window and are eyeing Ajax sensation Matthijs de Ligt.
According to Mundo Deportivo (h/t Calciomercato.com), the Blaugrana are keen to add more depth behind Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti.
It's suggested confidence is dwindling in the likes of Javier Mascherano and Thomas Vermaelen's ability to provide adequate competition at the Camp Nou, with both players past their respective peaks. De Ligt is said to be the most attainable target on a list of centre-backs the Blaugrana have assembled.
Athletic Bilbao duo Yeray Alvarez and Aymeric Laporte are said to also be in the frame. Davinson Sanchez, who left Ajax for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, and Inigo Martinez of Real Sociedad were said to have been considered in the previous transfer window.
De Ligt may not be as established as the aforementioned names, though the potential the 18-year-old has showcased has been remarkable.
As Squawka Football noted, despite being in the infancy of his career, the defender has accomplished a lot:
The 2016-17 season is one the youngster will not forget in a hurry. Having been promoted from Ajax's academy setup, De Ligt impressed in the first team and cemented his spot alongside Sanchez in Peter Bosz's side.
While Ajax didn't win the Eredivisie, they were exceptional in the UEFA Europa League. De Ligt was one of a number of young players who rose to the big occasion, as they progressed to the final of the competition before losing to Manchester United.
Such is his talent, De Ligt earned a call-up to the Netherlands national team when he was just 17, having made just two appearances for Ajax.
Despite his side's 2-0 loss to United in the Europa League final, sportswriter David Cartlidge was impressed by the way in which the teenager acquitted himself:
As we can see, courtesy of BigSport, De Ligt assumed something of a talismanic role during Ajax's run to the final:
With Sanchez now in north London, De Ligt has taken on more responsibility with Ajax, playing all eight matches for the team in the Dutch top flight this season. And after more measured displays, it's not a shock to see a club like Barcelona interested in him.
After all, Barca and Ajax's philosophies overlap in a lot of areas, especially in the way they develop young players. Like plenty of footballers to have emerged from Barca's Masia, De Ligt has brilliant technical ability, is calm on the ball and is intelligent in where he positions himself.
Still, it feels as though it may be a little early for the Ajax man to be making such a move. He's young and has a lot of developing to do. Staying with the Amsterdam giants and playing regular football is the best course of action to ensure that progress continues.