Barcelona have been dealt a significant transfer blow ahead of next summer, with Juventus said to be leading the La Liga side in the race to sign Dutch sensation Matthijs de Ligt.
The Ajax star has become one of the most highly coveted young defenders in Europe in recent times, after emerging as a defender with seemingly all of the key qualities to succeed as a modern centre back.
The 19-year-old is strong and imposing in the challenge, whilst also possessing the technical qualities demanded of a contemporary centre half. De Ligt’s budding reputation has seen him attract great interest from Barcelona. However, according to Sport, Juventus are now the Dutchman’s more likely destination.
It is said that de Ligt’s signing had previously appeared close for the Spanish champions, after it had been leaked that Barcelona had held meetings to secure the signing. The defender was said to be ‘excited’ by their offer, though he is keen to assess his options.
The apparent sticking point in Barça’s hopes to win the race for de Ligt lies in the fact that the Catalan giants cannot offer the certainty of regular first team football for the starlet. Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti are established as the club's first choice pairing at the back.
Furthermore, it is also said to be an issue that Barcelona’s offer does not match up to the bids made by others. Juventus are apparently much closer to successfully negotiating terms with Ajax, who apparently value de Ligt at €80m.
The Bianconeri are said to be increasingly confident that a deal is almost done, as they are prepared to meet the demands of their Dutch counterparts. It is said that Barcelona would be unable to match Juve’s offer if they continue to pursue de Ligt’s teammate, Frenkie De Jong.
Contrastingly, Juventus are in greater need of youthful refreshment in defence, with current rear-guard incumbents Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli comprising an aged backline at present.