Ajax star De Ligt wins Golden Boy award
Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt has been crowned the 2018 Golden Boy as the most promising Under-21 player in Europe.
Linked with La Liga champions Barcelona and Premier League titleholders Manchester City among others, the 19-year-old centre-back claimed the Tuttosport award after receiving the most votes from an international panel.
De Ligt beat compatriot and Roma winger Justin Kluivert, Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, AC Milan forward Patrick Cutrone and Real Madrid teenager Vinicius Junior to the honour, which was won by Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe last year.
Kluivert was previously seen as the leader for the award midway through the voting process, but instead his former Ajax teammate was recognised on Monday as the 2018 winner.
Netherlands international De Ligt under contract until 2021 has been a revelation since making his debut for boyhood club Ajax in 2016, establishing himself in the heart of the Eredivisie club's defence.
A first international call-up followed last year and De Ligt has since blossomed into a key player for Ronald Koeman's team, partnering Virgil van Dijk in the back line.
Named Ajaxcaptain this season, De Ligt continues to attract interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs, with Barca and City reportedly at the front of the queue.
De Ligt previously stated that he considered himself a "normal boy" more than a Golden Boy , but now the Dutchman joins illustrious company as winner of the prestigious award.
Previous winners of the award include Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling, Isco and Lionel Messi.
De Ligt is the first ever defender to win the award with eight midfielders and seven forwards having previously won the title.
He is also the second Dutchman to be given the title, following 2003 winner Rafael van der Vaart, who also won it during his time at Ajax.
De Ligt has made 27 appearances for Ajax this season and scored three goals, helping them reach the second round of the Champions League for the first time in 13 years.
Erik ten Hag's men are currently second in the Eredivisie, two points behind leaders and reigning champions PSV after 16 matches.