As revealed by SPORT on Thursday, Barcelona have made big moves in recent days to tie up the signing of Matthijs De Ligt. The club are hopeful based on the centre-back's desire to move to Camp Nou and the fluid relationship with his club, Ajax -- key elements when it comes to getting the deal done.
Contact with De Ligt and his agents is permanent and the young Ajax captain has been convinced that the competition at Barça would not be an obstacle for his progression.
THE SHADOW OF BAYERN
Barca are optimistic and feel they have the advantage if a bidding war opens up. Despite that, they know there are still hurdles to overcome.
A couple of months ago it was Juventus who led the race. In the last few weeks, though, the Italian side have varied their priorities. They like De Ligt, but the squad revamp will be bigger than expected and their money may be better invested elsewhere. They want a centre-back but the high price of the Dutch international is a problem at the moment.
That's not the case for Bayern Munich. Barça are aware the German side have shown their interes in the player to Ajax and their desire to sign him in the summer. It's not the first time Barça and Bayern's interests have crossed. For example, both clubs are also keen on Lille forward Nicolas Pepe.
Josep Maria Bartomeu admitted this week that De Ligt's name is on the table and will be discussed in meetings this month as Barça plan their transfer strategy for the post season.
An operation to sign De Ligt is now more likely than ever. Save the big Premier League clubs offering huge money at the last minute, Barça believe the battle is just between them and Bayern. Ajax will sell, the player's decided it's the right time to move on and it's now just a case of deciding where and when.