Late reports out of Italy on Wednesday night say that Juventus have agreed personal terms with Ajax phenom Matthijs De Ligt ahead of a €75 million move.
The 19-year-old center back has long been a target of the Old Lady, going back to an international friendly between Italy and the Netherlands that was held at the Allianz Stadium last year. De Ligt was given a tour of the stadium and team facilities on that occasion, and the Bianconeri have been one of the biggest names for the youngster ever since.
By the time he helped eliminate Juve from the Champions League by scoring the deciding goal in the quarterfinal matchup between the two teams, it was generally assumed that Barcelona were the heavy favorites to land him along with his Ajax teammate Frenkie De Jong. But things have changed, and Juve general manager Fabio Paritici looks like he has beaten out a determined effort from Paris Saint-Germain to the defender’s signature.
According to Sky Sport Italia, among others, De Ligt will sign a five-year deal with Juventus worth €8 million, plus bonuses that could take it to the €12 million he and agent Mino Raiola were hoping for. That would immediately make him the second-highest paid player on the team behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
The deal also includes a €150 million release clause, which is...interesting. For years it’s been team policy not to include release clauses in player contracts. Such a thing is essentially putting a target on desirable players, something that De Ligt would be for a very long time. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, that clause was a sticking point in negotiations, and the reason that PSG ended up out of the running, as Ligue 1 rules place strict limitations on such clauses. However, the clause will rise every season, giving Juve some semblance of protection from the machinations of Raiola, who will certainly be interested in trying to move again De Ligt at some point to pocket another huge commission. Regardless, it’s a risk worth taking to have De Ligt on the roster.
Ultimately whether or not that will happen is down to the player, of course. The agent works for the player, not the other way around. If the club treats De Ligt well, he could well decide he wants to spend a long chunk of his career in Turin. That would be fantastic, because the team needs a serious injection of youth in at the center-back position. Giorgio Chiellini had one of his best seasons in years in 2018-19, his first as the team’s captain. But he’ll be 35 before the season begins, and Time is undefeated. Leonardo Bonucci is also starting to edge away from his physical prime, and his performance upon his return didn’t make much of a case for him as an automatic starter anymore anyway. If Daniele Rugani manages to finally, truly break out—a possibility under former mentor Maurizio Sarri—the tandem of he and De Ligt locking down the middle of defense long-term is tantalizing.
The other piece of good news is that it looks like reports that were making the rounds yesterday that Juve would use Moise Kean—who has long been sought-after by Ajax—as a makeweight in the deal seem to have been false. The idea of De Ligt leading the defense and Kean leading the front line for the foreseeable future...excuse me, I need to go sit down for a moment.
Things are expected to be finalized in the next few days, and of course things could always change unexpectedly, so watch this space.