Ajax youngsters Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong have both been linked to power clubs such as Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona among others. Now, the duo is gearing up for the Champions League limelight as Ajax has a showdown with Die Roten tomorrow at the Allianz Arena.
Let’s take a look at both prospects.
Matthijs de Ligt
Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has been linked to Bayern Munich off-and-on for about nine months now, but this will be the first time for many fans of Die Roten to see the 19-year old prospect in action.
A center back by trade, de Ligt is among the most coveted defenders in Europe and currently has nine caps for the Netherlands. Comfortable in possession of the ball, de Ligt is an accurate and deft passer in addition to being a standout defender. The passing ability of de Ligt may be attributed to playing some of his youth career as a midfielder, despite the fact that everyone at Ajax knew he would be a center back as a professional.
Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar said this about de Ligt to Goal.com:
He looks like he’s been doing this for six or seven years. Matthijs is very mature for his age: he has the physique of a 24-year-old. He is also strong with both feet, has an extremely good range of passing, can head the ball, scores goals and is a real leader at the back already at the age of 18.
In the same piece, teammate Max Wober spoke of de Ligt’s incredible leadership qualities despite his young age:
Matthijs is one of those who makes the difference in the locker room. Just before a match, he takes to the floor and makes sure everyone is super sharp and wants to go all in.
With two goals in 12 games across all competitions this season, de Ligt will be looking to put on a good show against Bayern to further bolster his value on the transfer market.
Frenkie de Jong
Ajax’s 21-year old central midfielder has been battling a calf injury, but when healthy is certainly in Ajax’s Champagne XI. In addition to Bayern and Barcelona, de Jong has captured the attention of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur among others.
Able to shift between the central midfield, defensive midfield, or even defense if absolutely required, de Jong is considered one of the more versatile, young talents in Europe. Earlier this month, de Jong earned his first caps for the Netherlands against Peru and France respectively.
Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi gave this description of de Jong to Goal.com:
He looks like Sergio Busquets in terms of playing style. He’s young, but I think he can make a huge contribution [to Barcelona] now. He is seen as a beastly talent. He’s really a player to keep an eye on. De Jong’s profile is exactly what Barcelona need. A player who is technically very strong, wants to work for the team, but above all has a lot of talent.
In addition, former Ajax and Netherlands player Arie Haan said of de Jong:
I really think he is a revelation. I really enjoyed him against PSV. Now, you might laugh, but he is a better version of Franz Beckenbauer. People must interpret that properly. What I really mean is that he also has speed and passes easily. That’s an enormous weapon.
In 13 games across all competitions this season, de Jong has yet to register a goal or an assist, but the lack of statistical production has not hindered his value. Rather than let the uncertainty of his future linger, de Jong is expected to announce where the next stage of his career will take place as early as within the next month.