Barcelona President Says Matthijs de Ligt's 'Name Is on the Table'

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2019

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 05: Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax in action during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Real Madrid and Ajax at Bernabeu on March 5, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)
MB Media/Getty Images

Barcelona aren't hiding their desire to sign Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax, with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu telling SER Radio (h/t Metro) on Wednesday the defender's "name is on the table." 

Bartomeu revealed how conversations have already taken place about the 19-year-old skipper:

"Where there is such talent away from Barcelona, we're always looking at them. It's a topic that will be discussed in our sports planning which begins in March, with De Jong we felt we had to move quickly because there were many clubs that wanted him."

Those words come after De Ligt helped Ajax knock Barca's bitter rivals Real Madrid out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday. The Eredivisie side produced a shock in the last-16 second leg, winning 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to overturn a 2-1 loss in the first meeting.

It meant Los Blancos' run of winning the last three Champions League trophies in a row came to an end.

De Ligt was one of the main reasons for the end of Real's dominance:

Statman Dave @StatmanDave

Matthijs de Ligt made 10 ball recoveries vs. Real Madrid, more than any other player on the pitch. A captain’s performance.👏👏👏 https://t.co/CVTMi87HWv

The teenager's leadership skills and versatility have made him an essential member of the latest batch of youngsters off the Ajax production line:

CNN Sport @cnnsport

Ajax humiliated Real Madrid to reach its first Champions League quarterfinal in 22 years last night. CNN Sport visited the current squad to discover the secret to its success and to speak to its star players -- including captain Matthijs de Ligt. ➡️ https://t.co/P4cltLBj7x https://t.co/apwLpMj8EC

Barca are keenly aware of and enamoured with the pool of talent in Amsterdam. The Blaugrana have already secured a deal to acquire flexible midfielder Frenkie de Jong in the summer.

While Ajax would be loath to lose De Ligt as well, the club is realistic about the prospect of keeping a gifted youngster already in demand across Europe.

Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars recently told AS (h/t Football Italia): "We don't need to sell him. We don't need money, but I know he'll go to a top club. Selling our best players? We don't want to, but we have no choice."

It's understandable why Barca would want to acquire De Ligt. He's an athletic defender with the aggression to boss opponents in the air, as well as the pace to track them across the deck.

Aside from his defensive chops, De Ligt also offers comfort in possession many older and more-established players at his position would envy.

There's no denying De Ligt's impressive core skills, but his durability is just as laudable:

Scouted Football @ScoutedFtbl

Matthijs de Ligt has played 91% of a possible 7,740 minutes for AFC Ajax since the start of the 2017-2018 season. Captain Amsterdam. https://t.co/3UrooOzB0c

All of these qualities make De Ligt a natural choice to bolster a Barcelona back line in need of a refresh. Manager Ernesto Valverde still counts on 32-year-old Gerard Pique alongside Clement Lenglet, while Samuel Umtiti has dealt with injury issues.

De Ligt has all the attributes to fortify Barcelona's defence and also fit in the expansive style of play many of the club's fans demand. He's learned those things at Ajax, a club that's historically proved a pipeline to the Camp Nou.

Dating back as far as the late, great Johan Cruyff, many Ajax stars made the trip to Barca, including Overmars. The latter left Arsenal for La Liga back in 2000 and has already established a solid working relationship with his former club during the De Jong negotiations.

If Barca are serious about signing De Ligt, few will be able to stop them.