Lionel Messi has lavished praise upon Ajax duo and reported Barcelona targets Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.

The Dutch pair have caught the attention of many fans around Europe through a series of impressive displays for Ajax and Holland, picking up a combined 18 international caps over the past 18 months.

Would De Ligt & De Jong fit in at Barca? Five key things to know…

  1. De Ligt and De Jong have played a combined 153 games for Ajax so far, despite only having a combined age of 40.
  2. De Jong has been likened to Ajax and Barca icon Johan Cruyff in the past.
  3. De Ligt is one of the most exciting ball-playing defenders in Europe at the moment and could replace Gerard Pique in the future.
  4. Both players share Barcelona’s footballing ideology, with Ajax’s youth academy producing players very similar to Barca’s La Masia youth system.
  5. Lionel Messi believes the pair are ‘very good players’ that ‘work in the same way’ as his Barca teammates.

The duo have also received widespread acclaim from fans and former players, with several European giants now said to be chasing their signatures.

Barcelona have been the name most talked up as a potential destination, with the Ajax academy sharing a very similar ethos to that of the Catalan club’s La Masia, and Messi is the latest to show his appreciation for De Ligt and De Jong, telling Marca of how they could fit into the Barcelona style.

When asked about the starlets, Messi replied: “They come from a school very similar to ours and they work in the same way. They play like us with the ball. They are young players with great precision, two very good players.”

The Argentina international also expressed his desire to work with Pep Guardiola again the future, hailing the Spaniard as one of the ‘best in the world’.

He added: “I would like to work with Guardiola again. He’s one of the best coaches in the world.”

For his part, De Jong is in no rush to work with Guardiola at Manchester City, according to Sport. The Spanish news outlet claim despite an “astronomical” offer from the reigning Premier League champions, De Jong does not see himself playing in the Premier League and wishes to join Barca.

Messi has another Champions League win in his sights

Lionel Messi has won four Champions League titles during a glittering career with Barcelona, although the Blaugrana have only won one of the last seven editions of the tournament.

During that time, they have had to watch arch-rivals Real Madrid win four of the last five tournaments, something that Messi is looking to put right this season.

He said: “Every year there is a desire to win the Champions League. It is unique, special, the most beautiful competition I have played. It is a totally different competition that we all want to win.”

Barcelona face Lyon in the Champions League last 16.

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