Matthijs de Ligt Talks Up Virgil van Dijk and Possible Liverpool Move

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2019

Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match between Real Madrid and Ajax Amsterdam at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on March 05, 2019 in Madrid, Spain(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

Matthijs de Ligt hasn't been shy about expressing his admiration for Liverpool, particularly centre-back Virgil van Dijk. The Ajax captain, who is in demand across Europe, has even suggested he could join the Reds to play alongside his international team-mate.

Speaking to Omnisport (h/t Callum Vurley of the Daily Star), De Ligt talked up the world's most expensive defender and his club: "Virgil is a player who has experience in the top leagues. Of course you want to learn from him. It's very useful to play next to him in the Dutch team. [Joining him at club level] could happen. He plays for Liverpool. A nice club."

The idea of pairing Van Dijk with De Ligt would surely appeal to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. De Ligt is rapidly emerging as the most sought-after defender on the continent.

UEFA Champions League @ChampionsLeague

🕵️‍♂️ #UCL Scout: 💯 Youngster player ever to reach 100 games for @AFCAjax ✔️ ⚪️ Youngest Ajax captain in history ✔️ 🔴 Youngest player ever to start in a European final ✔️ ⚪️ First defender to win Golden Boy award ✔️ 😍 Matthijs de Ligt 💪 https://t.co/l1uNHfchT7

His performances have reportedly caught the eye of a host of big clubs, including Barcelona. The Camp Nou club's president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, recently told  SER Radio De Ligt's "name is on the table" (h/t Metro).

Metro also named Arsenal, Juventus, Manchester City and Real Madrid as interested parties in the skilled 19-year-old. Sport's Tomas Andreu has since said Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich have "shown their interest" in the teenager.

Regardless of who is in the queue of suitors, De Ligt appears destined to leave Amsterdam. Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars recently said "De Ligt can play easily on any of the six best teams in the world right now."

Liverpool would complete a radical and expensive overhaul of a defence that began with Van Dijk's arrival in January 2018 by signing De Ligt. Van Dijk cost £75 million but has been justifying the fee with stellar performances ever since.

The 27-year-old was outstanding during the recent 0-0 draw away to Everton in the Merseyside derby.

Squawka Football @Squawka

Virgil van Dijk made more clearances vs. Everton (13) than any other Liverpool player has managed in a Premier League game so far this season; his joint-personal-best tally for the club. An absolute magnet for the ball. 🧲 https://t.co/5OzQHLaraX

While Van Dijk has transformed Liverpool's defence, turning a shaky unit into a formidable one, the Reds still lack the ideal partner next to him.

Joel Matip is accomplished at playing out from the back but can be bullied in the air. By contrast, Dejan Lovren thrives in aerial duels, but he lacks pace and composure. Meanwhile, Joe Gomez is still inexperienced and has had injury issues.

De Ligt is younger than the 21-year-old Gomez, but he has a lot more experience. He's reached the 100-game landmark for Ajax and quickly established himself as the influential leader of the squad.

Yet although his career is on an upward trajectory, some, including former Ajax star Johnny Rep, believe De Ligt should sit tight:

Goal @goal

No rush for Matthijs de Ligt? ⏰ If you were him, which club would you join when the time comes? 💰 https://t.co/PTIxqUcPEw

Rep has a point, but given the level of interest in De Ligt, it's difficult to see the cultured centre-back being an Ajax player beyond this season. If Liverpool win the race, Klopp would finally have a strong-enough platform to get the Reds over the hump in the pursuit of major trophies.