Messi, De Jong & De Ligt all together: Barcelona will be scary next season

Finding the new Lionel Messi may prove impossible but the Blaugrana already look to have snapped up replacements for Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique

At the end of Willem II’s Eredivisie loss to Ajax earlier this month, Pol Llonch asked Matthijs de Ligt if the defender would be joining Barcelona at the end of the season.

According to the midfielder, the teenage centre-half replied, “I hope so.”

The rest of Europe will be hoping De Ligt does not end up at Camp Nou, though, as the idea of Barcelona being bolstered by not one but two Ajax stars is positively terrifying for all of their opponents.

The Blaugrana, of course, have already snapped up Frenkie de Jong for €75 million (£65m/$84m), with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admitting that they had been forced to move fast in order to secure the services of one of the most promising and versatile young midfielders in Europe.

“We wanted to do the signing of De Jong in the summer, but there was a lot of pressure,” he explained in January.

“Other teams wanted him and we brought it forward. With Ajax, there is a very good relationship.”

Indeed, these are two clubs bound by a shared footballing philosophy, united in their approach to the game by the legendary Johan Cruyff.

It is hardly surprising, then, that De Jong, who can play anywhere in midfield but also in defence , ignored interest from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain to move to Catalunya.

“I always dreamed of Barca as a kid,” the 21-year-old Netherlands international admitted after confirming his transfer.

“I just wanted to play for Barca. I liked the players, I liked the style.”

It is essentially the same style he has been taught since joining Ajax from Willem II four years ago.

De Ligt is even more steeped in Ajax’s traditions, having joined the club as a nine-year-old before going on to become their youngest ever captain in March of last year, at just 18.

It proved an inspired choice, with De Ligt not only having emerged as a defender of rare class and composure over the past 12 months, but also a formidable leader.

“De Ligt is only 19 years old and has the charisma and self-confidence of a 30-year-old,” former Ajax attacking midfielder Rafael van der Vaart told Sport1 .

“He gets on really well in interviews, seems very clear in the head, down to earth and grown up.

“This is a player who does not hang his head after mistakes and keeps going. He is already a great role model for many talents in the Netherlands.”

Certainly, De Ligt has led by example during Ajax’s remarkable run to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1997.

After all, it was he who scored the decisive goal in eliminating Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in the last eight.

“I can’t describe what kind of emotion we have,” he told BT Sport after the 2-1 win in Turin.

“It’s unbelievable that a squad from the Netherlands is showing the world what we can do.

“We did it against Bayern Munich, against Real Madrid and now against Juventus.

“We have so much potential, we’re all still quite young, and I think everyone saw what we can do.

“We could have scored more, it could have been 4-1, and that’s a really big compliment for us.”

The biggest compliments were reserved for De Ligt, with Gazzetta dello Sport simply referring to him as “The future!”

And his future now lies at Barcelona.

Goal understands that the defender’s transfer has already been finalised but will only be confirmed when Ajax are no longer fighting for any titles.

He should certainly make treble-chasing Barca even stronger.

Just as De Jong is viewed as the long-term successor to Sergio Busquets in midfield, the Blaugrana also believe De Ligt to be Gerard Pique’s ideal heir at the back.

When Louis van Gaal was asked about De Ligt’s next move earlier this month, the former Netherlands boss said, “If I [were him], I would go to Barcelona. They have central defenders who are not too good, so he will play there.”

That was an incredibly unfair appraisal of Pique and Co., though.

After an error-strewn start to the season, Pique has been colossal in recent months and while Samuel Umtiti has been hindered by knee issues this season, Clement Lenglet has ensured his fellow Frenchman hasn’t been missed.

Indeed, even Barca have been taken aback at just how quickly Lenglet has settled since joining from Sevilla last summer and his form is the primary reason why the Catalans are now considering cashing in on Umtiti this summer.

De Ligt’s imminent arrival is also a contributing factor, though.

Pique may be presently rolling back the years but the former Manchester United player is now 32 and Barca know full well that they need a worthy replacement.

There really is no better candidate than De Ligt.

Of course, finding a replacement for Lionel Messi is Barca’s main long-term concern but given how wonderfully well the Argentine is performing this season, they clearly still have some time to work with.

So, even if unearthing ‘The New Messi’ proves impossible, Barca look to have already snapped up the new Busquets and Pique to play alongside him.

And with Messi still performing miracles at 31, that is a truly scary prospect for Barca’s Liga and Champions League rivals.

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