Why Matthijs de Ligt is a much-needed signing for Barcelona

Matthijs de Ligt, the 18-year-old centre-back who has been impressing for Ajax all season, has been heavily linked to a move to Barcelona as early as January 2018. Already an international and used to playing within an attacking style of football, he would be a more than welcome addition because of his positioning, ability to tackle under pressure, calmness on the ball and imposing aerial presence.

To make matters even more encouraging for Cules, de Ligt recently explained: “What is my favorite club in Spain? I say Barcelona. Because of the connection with Ajax and the beautiful football. There are many things that are being written and as long as I do not hear anything, why should I worry about it? It does affect every player when he is mentioned at big clubs, with me that is no different. But it does not matter to me much, I still play at Ajax and am happy here."

We talked about the need to sign reinforcements, including de Ligt, Clement Lenglet, Kalidou Koulibaly and Jonathan Tah in our latest The Barcelona Podcast. Have a listen:

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde decided to start the season with only four central defenders - Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Javier Mascherano and the injury-prone Thomas Vermaelen. Marlon Santos, who had performed well at first-team level when trusted last season, was loaned out to Nice in the summer - a decision that many failed to understand given his potential.

With Pique and Umtiti starting almost every game and Mascherano becoming a reliable back-up whenever rest was needed, Valverde's decisions seemed to be paying off. Unfortunately, with the Argentina international now facing at least a month in the sidelines due to injury and Pique banned for Barcelona's next La Liga match against second-placed Valencia, Cules are feeling anxious about the back-line Valverde will have to field at the Estadio Mestalla.

Common sense would indicate that Vermaelen should be given the start due to his experience in that position and recent favourable performances for Belgium while away on international duty. However, the 32-year-old has not played a single minute of football for Barcelona this season and, given his disastrous injury record, many at the Camp Nou would question his ability to stay healthy for the whole 90 minutes when playing matches consecutively.

Left-back Lucas Digne, Barca B centre-back Jorge Cuenca and even Sergio Busquets have also been mentioned as emergency alternatives. Personally, I would love Valverde to trust young Cuenca as that would be a clear indicator of the manager's trust in those regularly playing for Barca B. This would also serve as a huge motivating factor for others such as Carles Alena, Marc Cucurella or Jose Arnaiz moving forward.

We must all agree, however, that Barcelona should not be in a position in which unplanned emergencies put the team's results in jeopardy. With that in mind, signing quality replacements who could become potential starters in the short-term is essential, and even more so if the price is right.

With a reported valuation of €45 million and at least a decade and half of top-flight football ahead of him, signing de Ligt would be a wise move from the Barcelona board. Here's why:

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