Barcelona Transfer News: Ronald Koeman Expects Matthijs de Ligt to Leave Ajax

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist INovember 13, 2018

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 11: Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax  during the Dutch Eredivisie  match between Excelsior v Ajax at the Van Donge & De Roo Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Rotterdam Netherlands (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman expects Barcelona target Matthijs de Ligt to leave Ajax in search of a bigger challenge.

Koeman has called de Ligt into the Dutch squad for UEFA Nations League games against France and Germany and explained why the player will opt to leave the Eredivisie, per Sport:

"You can imagine the level of the Dutch league once you have played your first Champions League game and then you're playing Excelsior, away from home and on an artificial pitch. The intensity of the Dutch league's lower, like the competition. ...

"It's normal that a player of his quality, sooner of later, decides that the moment has come to take a step forward in their professional career and seek new challenges with bigger clubs and competitions."

De Ligt is widely regarded as one of Europe's best young centre-backs. He turned 19 in August but has already been handed the captain's armband at Ajax.

WhoScored.com highlighted how impressive he's been in the Eredivisie this season:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Matthijs de Ligt: Has made more passes (459) than any other teenager in the Eredivisie this season For more player stats -- https://t.co/oISzb2go1C https://t.co/t43wUlGzb3

Barcelona have been warned off a January move for de Ligt by Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars. He told LaRoma24.it (h/t Samuel Marsden at ESPN FC), that "the chances of de Ligt leaving Ajax in January are zero percent."

However, Overmars has also said his club will find it difficult to keep their star players after this season, per Fox Sports (h/t Sport): "We are realistic. After this season, we will lose two or three players. They have such a high level that we cannot keep them. However it's important for us to reinvest the money and replace the players who leave at the end of the season as best as possible."

The Dutch side want €50 million for the defender, who has also attracted interest from Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Roma, per Tuttosport (h/t Sport via Football Espana).

Barcelona have sent scouts to watch de Ligt in action:

Mootaz Chehade @MHChehade

Barcelona had scouts at the Ajax vs. Benfica game yesterday to watch both Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.

It seems likely that Ajax will be unable to keep de Ligt for much longer, particularly if he continues to impress, and he may have his pick of top clubs to choose from.

Barcelona appear keen, and manager Ernesto Valverde has said he wants to improve their defence:

Samuel Marsden @samuelmarsden

Valverde says Barça need to improve in defence (lol). They have conceded more goals (18) in LaLiga than Atletico, Alaves, Espanyol, Sevilla, Madrid, Valladolid, Girona, RealSoc, Getafe, Betis, Celta, Valencia, Villarreal & Leganes.

De Ligt is a technically gifted, ball-playing centre-back who would be a good fit for Barcelona. The Spanish champions are in need of a replacement for Gerard Pique, who will turn 32 in February, and de Ligt is a great option.