The centre of attraction in the transfer market, Matthijs de Ligt revealed that Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo asked him to join Juventus during the pair’s UEFA Nations League final date.
Portugal became 1-0 victors in the inaugural tournament after Goncalo Guedes’s goal found no reply.
Ajax star De Ligt has been linked to many top clubs, with Barcelona being the front-runners.
The Dutchman revealed that the Juventus start asked him to join him at the Italian club.
“Ronaldo asked me to go to Juventus,” De Ligt revealed in the mixed zone after the defeat, according to Marca.
“I was surprised by his request, which is why I laughed.
“I didn’t understand him at first.”
The player is wanted by top European clubs but he admitted that he is yet to make a decision and could do it after a vacation.
“I’m going on holidays now,” he said.
“I’m going to think about what’s best for me and then I’ll decide.
“It’s important for a young player to play, that’s the only thing I’m sure of.”
An end to this summer’s grinding transfer saga is, apparently, coming into view.
Matthijs de Ligt will, imminently, transform from football’s greatest object of desire to the latest adornment at one of Europe’s grandees in the aftermath of the Netherlands’ Nations League decider against Portugal.
Tantalisingly – and surprisingly – for a club that finds itself within a pit of despair so deep that even Dante would be daunted, Manchester United is a name that continues to be tentatively linked with the 19-year-old.
Precipitous wage demands that have stalled a once-inevitable switch to Barcelona are, reportedly, no issue for incurably covetous executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward or dealing with quarrelsome ‘super-agent’ Mino Raiola. Neither is the €75 million+ fee demanded by Ajax.
The appeal of the prodigious centre-back is obvious, even to a layman’s eyes. United’s appeal to De Ligt, less so.
Such bullish power and preternatural leadership skills should not be found in a – relative – newcomer, who has made little more than 100 club appearances.
Laymen, however, should not be making decisions at elite football teams. Look beyond the abnormal talent and inject a dose of rationality absent since chief executive David Gill and manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s devastating double departure in 2013.
Now is not the time for United to be pursuing coltish talent in pivotal positions. No matter how steep their rise.
This is different to landing a prospect on the wing, like Swansea City and Wales’ Daniel James. After their worst defensive performance in 40 seasons, a battle-hardened centre-back for the here and now is required.
Especially when much-improved Sweden centre-back Victor Lindelof only clocks in at 24-years old. Plus, next term’s potential full-backs in the resident Luke Shaw and Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka boast a combined age of 44.
De Ligt holds himself like a veteran warrior. Youthful failings, however, still remain.
United’s Marcus Rashford took advantage of a miss-control to win – and convert – his penalty in last week’s eventual 3-1 win for the Dutch against England.
De Ligt was majestic at Santiago Bernabeu in March’s 4-1 humiliation of Real Madrid in the Champions League’s round-of-16, then powerless as Tottenham Hotspur roared back with three unanswered goals in the semi-finals.
Study clubs that United view as – historically, at least – contemporaries. Old heads reign supreme.
Vincent Kompany steadily dislodged John Stones at Manchester City in 2018/19 and Daniele Rugani has been forced to bide his time at Juventus, courtesy of last summer’s return of Leonardo Bonucci.
Gerard Pique offers wise counsel to Clement Lenglet at Barcelona. Jose Gimenez has developed gainfully next to indefatigable compatriot Diego Godin at Atletico Madrid, while Virgil van Dijk will be expected to bring on the exceptional Joe Gomez at Liverpool – fitness permitting.
Even at Ajax, the unheralded Daley Blind was a major catalyst for De Ligt’s outstanding 2018/19.
Bayern Munich appear an exception, thanks to youthful France recruits Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard joining up with 23-year-old Germany international Niklas Sule. But United do not boast anyone close to the retained Mats Hummels, who’ll remain to correct any faults.
Pursuits of Wan-Bissaka and James evidence that the Red Devils require several successful and perceptive transfer windows. Patiently backing standout prospects is the way forward, through troubled lands.
At centre-back though, they already possess one in Lindelof. Rather than attempting – however laden with folly the pursuit will probably be – to supplement him with De Ligt, the equally expensive Kalidou Koulibaly at Napoli is 27-years old and in his prime.
Spurs’ Toby Alderweireld has three more years on the clock and a beguiling £25m release clause, with Roma’s 27-year-old Kostas Manolas in a similar position.
De Ligt would deliver the buzz on social media Woodward so desires. On the pitch, however, he and United would bring out the worst in each other.
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.
RUMOUR: Real Madrid -> Loan -> Manchester United
United are prepared to take the unwanted Wales forward on loan and attract Madrid by taking him off their wage bill, according to the Daily Mirror.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Madrid are desperate to get rid of their exorbitantly well-paid winger. The market for a £75 million permanent sale at such intimidating cost, for a 29-year-old riddled by injury, is small. A pragmatic temporary deal then, through necessity, could make sense. This lessens the gamble for United ahead of another summer rebuild.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Bale has reportedly made it clear to Los Blancos he has zero intention of ending his six-year stint, no matter head coach Zinedine Zidane’s malevolent intentions towards him. In this context, would he be prepared to drop out of the Champions League? Also, United are meant to be targeting emerging British talent. Painful memories of how poorly Colombia striker Radamel Falcao fared on loan should also be fresh.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 3/10
RUMOUR: Real Madrid -> €30m -> Inter Milan
The Spain winger has emerged as an alternative option to bolster Antonio Conte’s revamp at the San Siro, according to Sky Sport Italia.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Vazquez’s diligence, energy and discipline make him an obvious pick for Conte. Madrid must make some sales to supplement their extensive – and expensive – summer refit. The acquisitions of Rodrygo, Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard make Vazquez expendable.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Inter’s clear first choice for the right wing-back position in Conte’s preferred 3-4-3 formation is Hertha Berlin and Austria’s Valentino Lazaro. He is also both younger and cheaper. For Madrid’s behalf, Vazquez remains a solid back-up option. They would rather sell persona non grata Bale than get rid of him.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 6/10
RUMOUR: Bayer Leverkusen -> £80 million -> Chelsea
Chelsea have rekindled interest in the Jamaica-born forward and plan to swoop if their transfer ban appeal is successful, according to the Daily Mail.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: The Blues are in the market for attacking options after they reluctantly allowed Hazard to fulfil his dream of moving to Madrid. They’ve already raided the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and a similar switch could be in the offing. Bailey was a shining starlet in 2017/18 – with nine goals and six assists in 30 top-flight run-outs – and his youth at 21-years old will appeal.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: A cloud covers Stamford Bridge as they await the outcome of their verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which if unsuccessful will preclude them from signing any new players over the age of 16 this summer or in January 2020. Even if this avenue works, Bailey’s level dropped in 2018/19. Bayer are also in no rush to sell after Julian Brandt exited for BVB, meaning their sizeable price tag might make little financial sense for the now cost-conscious Chelsea.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 2/10