Barcelona have reportedly lost the optimism that underlined the initial stages of their pursuit of Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt, with growing concern that Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and Bayern Munich are all ahead of them in the chase.
According to ESPN, the demands of De Ligt’s agent, Mino Raiola, may end up pricing the Catalan club out of a move, despite looking like the favourites for his signature for most of the past year.
The La Liga champions reportedly have an agreement in place with Ajax, similar to the one they finalised in January for De Light’s team-mate Frenkie de Jong – a £75 million initial transfer fee, plus add-ons. But they have yet to come to an agreement with the player and his agent, allowing other clubs to enter negotiations with the hope of making a better offer – with La Blaugrana unable to increase their current bid.
They still harbour hopes that the 19-year-old’s reported desire to play for Barcelona will give them an edge, but are increasingly unsure of De Ligt’s intentions.
“We can’t move any more on what we’ve offered,” a Barcelona source told ESPN. “One of the things that could benefit us is the player’s desire to come here, but we will see if that really is what he wants in the end.”
De Ligt captained Ajax to a domestic double, and the club also produced a magical run to the Champions League semi-final before being knocked out by Tottenham in heartbreaking fashion.
The Dutchman’s excellent form to end the season has reportedly led Raiola to increase his demands, both for the fee due to him as well as the wages being offered to his client.
Barcelona are unwilling to change their offer from one that was reportedly agreed in principle in March.
Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo revealed on Monday that Premier League runners-up Liverpool, who will face Tottenham in next week’s Champions League final, are not in the running for De Ligt, despite having been previously linked with a move.
Fallen Premier League heavyweights Manchester United are prepared to activate the €50 million release clause in defensive midfielder Thomas Partey’s Atletico Madrid contract, according to Footballghana.com.
Partey, 25, has grown into an impressive performer for Los Rojiblancos since the start of 2017/18. The Ghana international’s progress has not gone unnoticed elsewhere, with the Red Devils viewing him as an ideal replacement for Paris Saint-Germain- bound Ander Herrera.
Inter Milan and Arsenal are set to provide competition for the signature of a player who netted three times in 32 La Liga run-outs in 2018/19.
Any move has been eased by the existence of a termination fee that agent Jose Daniel Jimenez Pozanco confirmed earlier in the week.
“Inter is a top club, but I haven’t talked to anyone yet,” the Spaniard told passioneinter.com.
“The termination clause in Thomas’s contract is €50m, and that’s a cheap figure for a player like him.
“Let the season end and then we’ll see what happens “
Partey linked up with Atleti as a teenager in 2011. He played on loan at Mallorca and Almeria from 2013-15, before breaking into Diego Simeone’s first-team squad.
Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season?
We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.
Today’s edition features the most sought-after centre-back in Europe, a proven Premier League forward and a potential superstar in the making.
MATTHIJS DE LIGT
Ajax -> €70m -> Liverpool
Liverpool are definitely interested in Matthijs de Ligt and have “been talking to him”, football journalist Guillem Balague has been quoted saying on BBC Radio 5 Live’s podcast by Liverpool Echo.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: The Reds are one of the strongest forces in Europe at the moment and with a near-perfect squad already, certainly have the financial power to sign De Ligt. The Dutchman would be an asset to any side and is reportedly eager to develop alongside compatriot Virgil van Dijk.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: On the flip side, De Ligt may suffer from always being measured against the world’s best centre-back in Van Dijk. He may decide he’s better served to grow outside of the Liverpool defender’s shadow at a club where he would be the leader in defence.
With Joe Gomez returning to the fold next season, one of England’s brightest prospects, the Reds may decide spending €70m on another young, and potentially world class, centre-back wouldn’t be in their best interests.
Transfer predictor: 5/10
Crystal Palace -> €45m -> Arsenal
Arsenal are preparing a €45m bid for Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha, according to The Sun.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: Zaha has reportedly told the Eagles that he is determined to leave for a club competing in the Champions League. A move to the Emirates Stadium would see him remain in London while joining a pacey attack that includes Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could pay off for both club and player.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Palace are reluctant to sell and have set Zaha’s asking price at €91m. They could leave the decision until late in the summer to hold out for a better deal and Arsenal might move on to someone else by then. The Gunners are unlikely to even come close to the asking fee.
Transfer predictor: 6/10
Benfica -> €120m -> Manchester United
Manchester United have begun negotiations with Benfica for Joao Felix and are prepared to trigger the youngster’s €120m release clause, Portuguese outlet Record report.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made it clear United will target young and hungry players this summer. In Felix, they could acquire a global superstar in the making, one that would also appeal to their marketing ambitions.
With the ability to play anywhere in the final third, the 19-year-old should be a superb option for United as they have struggled for creativity and goal threat this season.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: A major overhaul could be on Solskjaer’s hands this summer and spending €120m on a new talent is a big risk. From Felix’s point of view as well, Atletico Madrid – who are also in the race for his signature – would provide a more stable environment and he could take over from the departing Antoine Griezmann.
Transfer predictor: 7/10