Marc Overmars has alerted his future employers that the first person he will sign if he left Ajax would be club captain Matthijs de Ligt. Former Arsenal winger Overmars is one of the frontrunners for the vacant position of the sporting director role for the Gunners, along with AS Roma’s Monchi.
De Ligt, who is valued at £70m by Ajax as per The Sun, is considered one of the best young talents in world football at the moment. He enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, appearing in 39 matches in all competitions, and became the first defender to win the Golden Boy award. This season, he has appeared in 38 matches in all competitions for the Dutch side, scoring four goals and setting up two more. The Netherlands international made his 100th appearance for his boyhood club in the 5-1 win against Den Haag last month.
Arsenal’s interest in De Ligt is not new, as they have been tracking the player for a year now, according to The Mirror. De Ligt has also drawn interest at various times from heavyweights like Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester City, and Liverpool (to just name a few). Arsenal is at a financial disadvantage compared to these giants. The Sun has reported that if they fail to qualify for the Champions League, their budget will just be £40m which will hugely restrict any plans they have in the transfer market.
Marc Overmars, who played for Arsenal between 1997 and 2000, is expected to bring in De Ligt if he succeeds Sven Mislintat as the sporting director of the Gunners. Under Overmars, Ajax have made huge profits from the transfers of talents like Justin Kluivert and Davinson Sanchez to European heavyweights. The latest to follow that path was Frenkie De Jong, who recently secured his big money transfer to Barcelona.
— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) March 5, 2019
Overmars have himself said, in an interview with AS, that it will be near impossible for Ajax to keep hold of their captain for the next season. When asked if De Ligt is the next big name to leave the Amsterdam Arena, he said:
“I think so. For me, De Ligt can play easily on any of the six best teams in the world right now. He has the power, the mentality, the heart.”
“If I worked at another club, I would like to sign him immediately. We do not need to sell him, we do not need the money, but I know he will go to one of the big clubs.”
The only way Arsenal can match Ajax’s valuation of De Ligt is by offloading out-of-favour midfielder Mesut Ozil. Ozil is the highest-paid player in the Emirates, but has found himself on the bench since Unai Emery took over. They will also need to qualify for the Champions League, either by finishing in the top four or by winning the Europa League.
De Ligt’s transfer to Arsenal depends on so many independent factors that it looks difficult for the deal to go through. Arsenal are fighting hard to finish in the top four, but are finding it difficult to overtake Tottenham and a resurgent United at the moment, and also have Chelsea snapping at their heels. Considering this, Unai Emery will have his work cut out if he is looking to finish in the coveted top four spots.
Another problem that Arsenal will face will be selling Mesut Ozil. Ozil has widely been considered one of the best midfielders in the world, but has endured a very torrid couple of seasons with Arsenal and his national team. His mentality and work rate has been questioned, and his £350,000-a-week wage bill doesn’t help his cause either.
However, the biggest problem that Arsenal will face is to convince De Ligt to choose Arsenal over strong interests from Juventus, Manchester City, and Liverpool. Juventus are reportedly preparing a bid for the defensive prodigy, as per The Sun.
According to CalcioMercato.com journalist Fabrizio Romano, Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici visited Amsterdam to watch De Ligt.
The Sun also reported that Manchester City are eyeing De Ligt as a long-term replacement for the ageing Vincent Kompany. Barcelona were in the market for the centre-back as well, but their interest has cooled off after the signing of Frenkie De Jong.
In this scenario, the one man who will play a vital role is agent Mino Raiola. According to Mundo Deportivo, De Ligt preferred to join Barcelona, but Raiola’s demand for a €10m commission made the Catalan club abandon their plans. As football london reports, both the Manchester clubs are interested in De Ligt, but are hesitant to make a bid because of his agent.
Raiola famously called Pep Guardiola “a coward and a dog” last year, and was accused of offering Paul Pogba to other clubs like Barcelona.
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Arsenal’s relationship with Mino Raiola hasn’t been the best either. In 2016, the super-agent slammed Arsenal for failing to attract big name players to the Emirates. He also proved to be a difficult person to deal with during the Henrikh Mkhitaryan-Alexis Sanchez swap deal. However, Arsenal have the relief of having very good relationship with Marc Overmars, a once-Arsenal player.
From a footballing perspective, the signing of De Ligt would be a game-changer for Arsenal. The centre-back has already been capped 13 times by The Netherlands, and was recently handed the captaincy of Ajax, all at the tender age of 19. He is a natural leader, and that is something Arsenal have lacked since Sol Campbell left the club.
Not only is he a defensive rock, he is also someone who can rally the backline and make every player around him better – think a fit Vincent Kompany for Manchester City or Virgil Van Dijk for Liverpool. In the recent thumping of Real Madrid (a club that, according to Sportsmole, is looking to sign De Ligt), the centre-back kept the entire Madrid frontline in his pockets effortlessly.
If the stars of Arsenal align and the gods favour them, and they are able to pull of this shock signing, it will have a major impact on their performance and image. For a long time, the environment around the Emirates have been one of doom and gloom, and if Arsenal are able to steal De Ligt from other European giants, it will definitely work wonders in lifting up the mood of the fans.
So, while the deal look improbable, Unai Emery must be visiting the church every Sunday hoping that the deal can be pulled off.