The race for the signing of Matthijs de Ligt is on the final straight. While there was optimism at Barcelona a few weeks ago, now there's alarm. Things have been complicated by new financial demands and the club know they now have to step forward if they want to make the signing. De Ligt's first option is Barça but his people feel his value has gone up and the setting has changed. The coming weeks will be key.
Barça moved forward with their move for the Ajax defender in February. There was continuous contact and he was keen to come. Convinced he would play and have a big future at Camp Nou, Barça's signing of teammate Frenkie de Jong also played a big part. Everything was on track and Barça even had the perception a deal could be signed if Ajax lost to Juventus in the Champions League. Talks were a long way down the line.
De Ligt was always clear: he didn't want his future to interfere with Ajax's chances on the pitch this season. Since then, he's been brilliant on the pitch and has reputation has continued to rise. His people now feel he deserved more and that the conditions talked about over a month ago are no longer valid. It's clear De Ligt has a huge market because of his age, ability, potential and the lack of other options in his position.
The operation is not dead, not at all, but there are now complications. A lot of teams are pushing for him. For now, Bayern Munich, PSG and Juventus are all on the scene. One of their offers, as of today, is above the market value. Way above. The player and his people are waiting, then, because it's in their interest to do so. Barça know they must make big steps forward.
The signing committee have done all their work and it's now in president Josep Maria Bartomeu's hands. In January, with the possibility of losing De Jong real, he went to Amsterdam to seal the deal. Something similar could happen in the coming weeks with De Ligt.
But the timing could be tough. Ajax could reach the Champions League final next week. And in the coming weeks they're competing for the Dutch league title with PSV. There's also the Dutch cup final. There's not much room to move in and De Ligt could delay a decision until June, but Barça know they have to lay everything on the table now if they want to win the battle.
De Ligt's their No.1 priority for this summer and all other deals -- due to the finances -- are subject to this one. Barça also want a forward to help Luis Suarez rest but who they target will vary depending on what they spend on De Ligt. The club insist they're still optimistic and that there's regular contact, although they must make one last push.