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Matthijs de Ligt – The Golden boy from the Netherlands

Ajax v Royal Standard de Liege - UEFA Champions League third round qualifying match
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Matthijs de Ligt is the latest teenage star of AFC Ajax. He was named the 2018 Golden Boy, which is an award for the most promising under-21 player in Europe.

The Dutchman became the first central defender to win it, as The Golden Boy award has previously been won by the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Anthony Martial, Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba, Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney.

De Ligt made his debut for Ajax in September 2016, at the age of 17. He even managed to score after 25 minutes and helped his team secure a 5-0 victory over Willem II.

He quickly established himself as one of the most talented teenagers in football and in May 2017 became the youngest player ever, at 17 years and 285 days old, to play in a European final when he started against Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League decider in Stockholm.

It is rare for a player in his position to break through so young, but he is now in his third season as a key part of the Ajax first team and already has 13 senior caps at international level.

Last week he captained his team in the Champions League tie against Real Madrid and the Dutch defender is the second youngest skipper in the competition’s history, behind the former captain of Porto – Ruben Neves.

He uses his impressive physical strength to muscle attackers off the ball and never holds back when he needs to slide in to take the ball away cleanly from his opponent. His maturity is one of his biggest assets, even though he is only 19.

On the ball, he is always calm and composed, helping Ajax circulate possession swiftly and effectively. De Ligt usually takes the safe route in sending the ball wide, but he is happy to charge forward and join in the attack whenever the opportunity presents itself.

The defender is linked with many big European clubs, with Barcelona being the favorites to sign him. The Catalans ensured the signature of his 21-year old friend and colleague from Ajax, Frenkie de Jong in January and De Ligt might be their top transfer target for the next summer.

The Dutch defender did not want to deny the reports, saying:

“You never know. At the moment, I’m really happy at Ajax. Every day I come to the club with a smile on my face. So, I’m really happy here, and at the moment I’m not focusing on other clubs.

“I’m just focusing on becoming champion with Ajax, winning the cup and winning against Real Madrid.”

There is one thing we know for sure though – there is a bright future in football for Matthijs de Ligt and we are about to enjoy his talent over the following decade.