One of the biggest up and coming stars to have broken through onto the world stage this year has been Matthijs de Ligt. The Dutch defender was a rock in the Ajax Amsterdam backline as he led them to a surprise semifinal berth in the Champions League to go with a domestic double.
Discerning football analysts have had their eye on the 19-year-old for some time now. Indeed, even Everton were linked with making a move for the defender last summer, amidst interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City.
Whatever he would have cost then, he certainly doubled in value after that incredible season and is now about to sign for another European giant, Juventus, for a rumoured sum of €75 million including add-ons.
This blockbuster transfer, while not directly related to Everton, will have multiple ramifications for the Toffees this summer.
Two particular players on the Ajax squad have caught the interest of Everton this summer. Brazil forward David Neres has been widely linked to the Blues, with Marcel Brands making it no secret that the club has been pursuing him and even Richarlison talking to him about the Toffees.
The other player is midfielder Donny van de Beek, who was linked with the Blues about a month ago but since then the trail seems to have gone cold, which as know with Brands doesn’t mean the interest is done.
With that influx of cash at Ajax though, they might not need to sell either of the players now, which will come as a blow for the Blues who are looking to add another forward who can play across the forward line. Signing Fabian Delph yesterday and retaining Andre Gomes could mean that Everton aren’t looking for any more central midfielders, even though van de Beek’s skills at the 8/10 position would have been a huge upgrade.
It doesn’t end there though. Juventus have been splashing the cash this summer aside from the de Ligt deal, adding Cristian Romero, Luca Pellegrini and Merih Demiral for €66 million and Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot (also linked with Everton) and club legend Gianluigi Buffon on free transfers, but high wages.
Should they look to recoup some of that, then two names have been of particular interest to the Blues. Teenage striker Moise Kean has been on Everton’s radar, with the club linked with having made an initial offer, and despite comparisons to footballing bad boy Mario Balotelli, the youngster could have an impact at Goodison Park not unlike that of Romelu Lukaku not so many years ago.
Latest rumour has it that Everton are ready to go back for Kean for a sum of €40m, but that is excluding a buyback clause which Juve seem insistent on putting in, understandably.
There is one more name of interest to have popped up in the last couple of days - veteran forward Mario Mandzukic. The Croatia international has been pushed to the fringes at Juve and with two more years on his deal, the Italians could be looking to cash in on his experience and grit.
Bringing in the well-traveled and tough 33-year-old would be outside the Brands model, but as the club have shown with the signing of Delph, they are willing to bring in leadership and a winning mentality to the dressing room in selective areas, and there is no doubt that Mandzukic bears all those hallmarks from his time at Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
After all the talk about Diego Costa, Mandzukic represents much better value on all fronts than the volatile Spaniard should Brands choose to sign an ageing, combative striker that can be thrown on to change the game.