Euro giants prepare to plunder Dutch gold

Netherlands' Matthijs de Ligt pulls back on Portugal's Goncalo Guedes during the Nations League Final at Estadio do Dragao, Porto. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Highly-rated Ajax duo Matthijs De Ligt and Donny Van De Beek are keeping their options open amid transfer interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

A memorable season came to a disappointing end for the pair on Sunday evening as Holland lost 1-0 to hosts Portugal in the inaugural Nations League final.

De Ligt and Van De Beek had been hoping to cap a campaign to cherish with more silverware, having played a key role in Ajax’s domestic double and their eye-catching run to the Champions League semi-finals.

The Amsterdam club’s golden crop is now set to be disbanded, with a number of big names looking set to follow Barcelona-bound Frenkie De Jong in making an exit.

Teenage sensation De Ligt has been strongly linked to Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, and Paris St Germain, but the in-demand defender is in no rush to make a decision.

Asked after the Nations League final what colour shirt he would be wearing next season, the 19-year-old said: “I don’t know. I don’t know. Now I am going on vacation and I just take a rest, relax and then I will see.

When you rest you have enough time to think, so that’s good.

It is understood the United hierarchy have long expected De Ligt to join Barcelona, where De Jong has already agreed to move.

Cristiano Ronaldo asked the young centre-back if he was joining Juventus after Sunday’s final, while Liverpool and Manchester City have also been mentioned as possible destinations for one of the stars of Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals in which they eventually lost to Tottenham on aggregate.

Asked how he reflected on the campaign, De Ligt said: “I think it was a difficult end to a memorable season. I think in the beginning we didn’t expect to reach the final, but we did and if it is a final you want to win it. I am not happy that we lost but proud that we came here.”

Ajax teammate Van De Beek echoed those sentiments after Holland just fell short at the Estadio do Dragao on Sunday night. The 22-year-old is excited about the future of Dutch football and he too could be on the move this summer.

Reports suggest Van De Beek would be keen to move to Manchester United or Tottenham this summer, while Real Madrid are among the other clubs to be linked with a move for the player.

“My situation is I have a contract with Ajax and I am really happy,” he said.

You never know what is going to happen in the future but I can say nothing about that.

Van De Beek was more forthcoming on the situation regarding teammate De Ligt, with it appearing a matter of when rather than if the defender leaves.

Asked if De Ligt may leave, Van De Beek said: “I don’t know. A lot of clubs want to buy him, I think so because he is a good player and now he has to choose for himself, where he feels good, he has to go there.”

Hakim Ziyech and Andre Onana are other Ajax players to be linked with an exit as Erik Ten Hag’s side looks set to be dismantled - a sad development for the neutral, but one Van De Beek is philosophical about.

“You see that a lot,” he said. “Players go to another country, another competition, that’s normal in Holland, in the Dutch league, you see that a lot of times.”

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