Barcelona have changed their plans regarding Matthijs de Ligt, the young Ajax centre-back. The club have spent at least two years following him closely, but things have moved quickly, to the point that the defender is now a priority this winter.
The reason for the radical change has a concrete location: Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena. Eric Abidal and Pep Segura were there on Oct. 2 to watch Bayern play Ajax in the Champions League. The objective was to watch De Ligt in a demanding environment.
Both were impressed by the Dutchman. The game ended 1-1 and De Ligt's performances was more than notable, comparable with Europe's best defenders.
The display dispelled any lingering doubts the club had. It left the sensation that De Ligt was a centre-back for the present and the future.
Until now, due to Ajax and Hollands' form, it had been tough to see De Ligt in a really competitive game, save the Europa League final in 2017. He was just 17 at the time but played the 90 minutes against Manchester United in the No.36 shirt. Now he wears No.4.
Segura and Abidal are convinced. They believe he's mature enough and ready for the challenge Barça offers.
The possible absence of Samuel Umtiti (he may have to undergo surgery) for the coming months and De Ligt's unstoppable growth have forced Barça to move quickly and they're ready to do a deal as soon as possible.
If not, Barça feel his price will shoot up and there could be a battle for his signature with other European sides. The good relationship between the Catalans and Ajax (Marc Overmars is their sporting director) could play into their favour in January.
His current price is around 40 million euros (although Transfermarkt suggest 50 million euros), a figure which Barça feel is appropriate for a player with the ideal qualities to adapt to Camp Nou.