Ajax starlet Frenkie de Jong would reportedly prefer to move to Barcelona ahead of other clubs in the future amid continued speculation about a transfer.
De Jong has enjoyed a rapid rise with the Amsterdam giants and was linked to some big names over the summer. He stayed at Ajax, but according to Xavi Hernandez of Marca, Barcelona remain interested in signing the Dutchman and the admiration is mutual.
"Ajax's sporting director Marc Overmars may have managed to retain him for one more year in the Eredivisie, but everything points to this being De Jong's last season in Amsterdam, with Barcelona his favoured landing spot," Hernandez said.
It's added that key figures at Barcelona are ready to open negotiations with Ajax soon, as they are wary of his price tag increasing if he continues to excel. According to Hernandez, the La Liga side do not want to pay more than €50 million (£45 million).
In addition to Barcelona, Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur are also said to be admirers of De Jong. According to Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph, Spurs are ready to make a January offer for the Oranje player.
The progress made by the 21-year-old was capped by a call-up to the senior Netherlands team, and De Jong made his full debut in the clash with world champions France on Sunday.
Football Talent Scout posted the statistics behind what was an impressive first start for his country:
Frenkie de Jong vs France 72 touches 68 passes 87% pass accuracy 1 dribble won 1 key pass 2 interceptions 1 aerial won First senior international start and a very positive performance against the best national team in the world. Future Oranje maestro. https://t.co/BPcIS81vH8
The call-up for De Jong was a reward for an excellent 2017-18 season and a fine start to the current campaign. During that time, the player has cemented himself in the Ajax first team and as one of European football's brightest prospects.
De Jong spent the majority of the previous season playing as a centre-back for Ajax, where he would assume the role of a classic libero, venturing forward from deep and getting attacks started with his incisive forward passing.
It's that ability on the ball that's earmarked him for a midfield berth in the future, which is where he was deployed for the Dutch against France. De Jong has also shown an awareness and intelligence that exceeds his tender years.
Barcelona's interest makes sense, although as Dutch Football noted, Overmars said the Catalan club didn't offer enough for him in the previous window:
With De Jong set to make more strides throughout 2018-19, interest in him is only likely to increase. It's why the Blaugrana may be keen to steal a march on potential rivals in pursuit of his signature.
Following his performances for the Netherlands and the continued links to the Camp Nou, the Ajax tyro will find himself under increasing focus. It will be interesting to see how he copes with this added scrutiny in the months to come.