Matthijs de Ligt has already given his Hakim Ziyech verdict amid Chelsea links

The trail of Jules Kounde hasn’t even gone cold but Chelsea are already hunting for new prey.

Like a transfer predator, the Stamford Bridge stalkers have spotted another exotic beast in the bushes.

They slowly creep through the wilderness, stepping gently to avoid startling this magnificent beast.

As the branches part, a tall, blond, powerful creature arches its back.

Matthijs de Ligt is in range.

Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

That is, of course, if recent reports are to be believed.

De Ligt’s name is seemingly on Chelsea’s radar as their quest to locate another centre-back continues.

Calciomercato is the latest publication to suggest the Blues are admirers of the Netherlands international.

At just 22 years of age, the future could be bright for the defender if he plays his cards rights.

Moving from Ajax to Juventus for £67.8m (Sky Sports) in 2019 as a teenager signalled the start of his rise to stardom.

Photo by Daniele Badolato – Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

A price tag to match a mighty reputation, forged in the fires of the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Include Ajax’s epic run to the Champions League semi-finals two years ago, and the pressure was on De Ligt the second he landed in Turin.

But it hasn’t all been tulips and windmills in Italy for the man from Holland.

A varied first season under former Chelsea chief Maurizio Sarri was followed by an injury-stricken second for a team managed by Andrea Pirlo.

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The Dutchman has missed the last two Serie A matches, left out by Massimiliano Allegri, the third Juve manager to oversee the centre-half’s development.

Get Hakim on the case

Despite his indifferences in Italy, clearly a talented player lurks beneath the surface.

Chelsea seem to have recognised this and appear intent on keeping De Ligt on their radar.

Perhaps they could use the pull of a former colleague to lure him London way?

Hakim Ziyech and De Ligt shared a dressing room for three years before the latter signed for Juve.

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A man known for providing assists, Ziyech may need to wave a wand to make this deal happen.

Or perhaps he doesn’t need to do anything at all?

“I don’t know what will happen yet,” said De Ligt in 2018 when asked about his future.

“Now I am focused only on Ajax – but Italy is a beautiful place and Serie A is an excellent championship.

“Who do I prefer between Cristiano Ronaldo to Juve and Messi to Barcelona? Hakim Ziyech.”

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How often has Ziyech found himself ahead of Ronaldo and Messi in his career?

Not often, so it says a lot about how highly De Ligt values the Chelsea forward.

If he had a choice between Ronaldo, Messi and the Moroccan now, would the selection be the same?

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.