Ajax star De Ligt delighted to join Golden Boy alumni

Following the likes of Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe as a winner of the Golden Ball is a huge honour for Matthijs de Ligt.

Matthijis De Ligt knows he is in elite company after picking up the coveted Golden Boy award.

The 19-year-old Ajax defender joins the likes of Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe after being named the most promising player under 21 in Europe this year.

Already captain of the Eredivisie giants, De Ligt has been linked with a big-money move to the likes of Manchester City, and his super-agent handler broke the news to him he had been honoured by Tuttosport.

"I found out through my agent Mino Raiola, but Ajax also informed me," he told the Italian newspaper.

"Of course I checked the list of former winners. I know it almost by heart.

"There are only very large names in that list but, if I have to name one, Messi is the man for me. 

"Everyone knows him and they know what he did for football. I really like him as a player. 

"So, I'm very proud to have won the same trophy that he has raised before me - 13 years ago, when I was only six years." 

De Ligt pipped Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in the voting, becoming the first defender to win the award.

"I am very pleased to be the first defender to win this award," he added.

"And knowing that so far only strikers and midfielders had won, it gives me an even more special feeling. 

"In general, in the photographs more often attackers and midfielders appear. This really means a lot to me, that I occupy another role."