Paris Saint-Germain have become favourites to sign Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt due to the efforts of former sporting director Leonardo, who is set to return to the French champions after nearly six years away, sources have told ESPN FC.
After a disappointing 2018-19 season in which the Parisians claimed only the Ligue 1 title, PSG are moving to revive their once-ambitious project by bringing back the Brazilian who laid the bones for Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) after their 2011 takeover of the club, and his priority is the signature of coveted defender De Ligt.
According to the sources, Leonardo is in Paris finalising his return to the Ligue 1 giants in a position of considerable influence that should diminish, if not totally extinguish, current sporting director Antero Henrique's Parc des Princes role -- as had been on the cards for some time.
The former PSG and Brazil midfielder is in constant contact with De Ligt's agent Mino Raiola, according to the sources, with compatriot Maxwell also heavily involved in the negotiations for the 19-year-old.
The sources say PSG are confident they can sign De Ligt despite interest from the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus. However, the French capital outfit were also confident they'd won the race to sign Ajax teammate and fellow Netherlands international Frenkie de Jong before they were ultimately pipped to the midfielder by Barca.
De Ligt and Raiola are convinced that PSG would be a smart sporting decision for the teenager as they could guarantee maximum game time, the sources added, though Thomas Tuchel's men can also, crucially, meet Raiola's exorbitant commission demands.
Should Leonardo succeed in securing De Ligt, PSG would be open to selling fellow defender Presnel Kimpembe this summer, with the club confident they can bring in at least €40 million for the youth academy-raised France international.
ESPN FC sources have indicated such a sum would represent approximately half of the proposed De Ligt fee, and that signing the Dutchman could see captain Thiago Silva sold if a good offer arrives. Or, he could be allowed to play out the final year of his contract before leaving.
PSG remain in need of substantial sales before the end of the month to stay out of UEFA's financial fair play (FFP) crosshairs, with Thomas Meunier attracting the most interest. However, the decision not to renew Gianluigi Buffon's lavish contract frees up significant space on the wage bill.
Per the sources, Les Parisiens' original plan was to focus on sales until the end of June before launching an assault on the transfer market. But they've been since informed that immediate action would be required to secure the in-demand De Ligt.