The 19-year-old Dutch international has been on Barca’s radar for a long time, having consolidated his spot as Ajax’s starting centre-back during the 2016/17 season, which culminated with an appearance in the Europa League final against Manchester United.
De Ligt has reportedly already informed the Catalan club of his desire to join them, and the club are said to be equally impressed by the young Dutchman.
Midfielder Frenkie de Jong, De Ligt’s team-mate for both club and country, has also been a long-term target for Barcelona. But the club are said to be prioritising signing the defender, given Gerard Pique’s struggles to start this season.
De Ligt is represented by Mino Raiola, who is also the agent of rumoured Barca target Paul Pogba, and the controversial figure will be central in any transfer negotiations between Ajax and the La Liga champions.
The market for centre-backs has also been inflated by the transfer of De Ligt’s fellow Dutch defender, for whom Liverpool paid Southampton £75 million in January, and the price may become a sticking point for Barcelona.
However, their need for defensive reinforcements may force their hand.
The midfielder has been intensely linked with a move to Barca since the summer thanks to a year that has seen him break through with Ajax and the Netherlands.
His graceful and precise style of play has earned him comparisons with the likes of Andres Iniesta and, with the Barca great having moved onto Japanese pastures, it’s a good time for any potential successor.
However, 21-year-old De Jong is in no rush to leave the club that nurtured him – and is a little tired of all the hype.
“In the beginning it was fun and I felt very flattered by the stories around Barcelona, but after a while the questions about it got annoying,” he told ELF Voetbal.
“For the time being, I just stay with Ajax, at least another year and maybe two or three more years. I’m really enjoying myself here.”
The Englishman will be entering the final season of his current deal next summer, which could see his transfer value plummet from the January transfer window onwards.
Though there is reportedly a willingness from both player and club to work out a new long-term deal, little progress has been made in negotiations so far, even as City have agreed extensions with Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, and Sergio Aguero in the past year, as well as manager Pep Guardiola, who wants Sterling to stay at the club.
Sterling has previously stated he would be open to moving abroad.
The 23-year-old joined City in 2015 after a contentious £49million move from Liverpool, and won a Premier League title with the club last season. His form with the Citizens has seen Sterling become an England regular and one of the country’s best young players.