Matthijs de Ligt's display in Ajax's historic 4-1 thrashing of UEFA Champions League opponents Real Madrid on Tuesday has reportedly helped convince Barcelona to sign the player, who is also said to want the move.
ESPN FC's Sam Marsden wrote Barca saw enough during Ajax's 5-3 aggregate win over Real to move ahead in their pursuit of De Ligt, 19, but the economics of the transfer remain the biggest obstacle:
Marsden referred to recent comments made by Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu, suggesting De Ligt's transfer and the finances to recruit him will be discussed in a series of upcoming meetings.
Tomas Andreu of Sport said sources were confident the finances would be available, adding that the Ajax captain was happier to leave Amsterdam for Catalonia after being convinced by he will be a part of Ernesto Valverde's starting XI.
It inevitably helps that Barcelona have agreed to sign De Ligt's Ajax team-mate Frenkie de Jong this summer for €75 million (£64.4 million). On the flip side, that means a good portion of this summer's transfer funds are already spent.
De Ligt coolly commanded Ajax to a deserved 4-1 triumph at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday to help push the Dutch giants into the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2003. Sports writer Rich Allen noted the strong appraisal from L'Equipe:
Rich Allen 🇨🇵⭐⭐🇨🇵 @rich_allen85
L'Equipe awarded Ajax forward Dusan Tadic a very rare 10/10 for his "perfect match" against Real Madrid. Matthijs De Ligt was rated 9/10 - "he made everyone believe he had 15 years experience at the top level". Casemiro was given a 1/10. Courtois, Kroos and Nacho were rated 2/10.
There's no opponent Barca would rather see a target test their mettle against than Clasico rivals Real, and De Ligt came through with high marks.
Marsden said Barcelona will create space for De Ligt by releasing Thomas Vermaelen when his deal expires in June and that they don't intend to make Jeison Murillo's loan move from Valencia permanent.
The Blaugrana have signed two centre-backs already this season, however. Clement Lenglet, 23, was bought from Sevilla last summer for €35 million (£30 million), and Barca chose to speed up Jean-Clair Todibo's agreed free transfer in the summer, paying Toulouse an undisclosed fee to take the 19-year-old in January.
De Ligt would likely jostle with Gerard Pique, 32, and Samuel Umtiti, 25, for a starting place at the core of Barca's defence if he arrives. Former Premier League defender Kenny Cunningham told Off The Ball the Netherlands international is worth at least £75 million and said the teenager would be worth the expense:
There are still question marks over how Barcelona will pay for another big transfer, especially after splurging on the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho in recent years.
That said, the recent escalation of events hints the Catalan club will spend now and worry about the specifics later as they look to reward another Ajax ace in light of De Ligt's showing against Real Madrid.