Article by Charlotte Henry – Follow @charlotteahenry
Fearing that I might slip into a boredom-induced coma on Tuesday night, I changed channels from the Manchester United game to Bayern Munich vs Ajax instead. In particular, I was interested in seeing Ajax skipper Matthijs de Ligt, with whom Spurs were heavily linked over the summer.
The game showed exactly why Mauricio Pochettino may have had the centre-back on his radar. Against top opposition, the 19, yes, 19-year-old, defender barely put a foot wrong. His direct opponent, the legendary goal-poacher Robert Lewandoski, hardly got a sniff as de Ligt battled and beat him to headers.
A particular highlight was watching Serge Gnabry reduced to hacking de Ligt down after he slid to beat the ex-Arsenal man to the ball, before coolly getting to his feet and trying to move downfield.
Having conceded a goal inside four minutes, Ajax did not crumble, as most teams would in the circumstances. Instead, de Ligt led his side to a fantastic point in the high-pressure environment of the Allianz Arena on a Champions League night. This is even more impressive when you consider that three of the back four that he anchors are 20-years-old or younger.
De Ligt appears to have all the qualities that we enjoy from our current Ajax imports – Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertgonen and Davinson Sanchez – alongside the experience of captaining a famous European side in the Champions League. He is also so frighteningly young that he could develop even further.
He should be right at the top of Pochettino’s shopping list come the January transfer window.
Yes, at the moment Spurs are blessed with three top-class central defenders. However, Alderweireld’s contract situation remains unresolved and Vertognen is not getting any younger. As we are currently seeing in other positions, if we pick up a few injuries our resources quickly become stretched. We cannot risk that in the centre of defence. Furthermore, alongside the ever-improving Sanchez, de Ligt could be at the heart of our defence for years to come.
Spurs fans were deeply frustrated over the summer as none of the transfer rumours we read and heard about came to fruition. Pochettino is notoriously sceptical about signing players in January, but, having seen de Ligt in action, I think the Spurs boss should make an exception and sign him as soon as the transfer window opens.