Erik ten Hag discusses Cristiano Ronaldo's future
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Ajax have dropped the clearest hint yet that they are planning for life without Antony after discussing the impending arrival of his replacement. The Brazilian winger is a target for Manchester United as Erik ten Hag eyes a reunion with his former protege and could leave this summer.
The Eredivisie champions are set to complete a deal for FC Porto’s highly-rated midfielder Francisco Conceicao worth around £17million, which would give the green light to Antony to negotiate his proposed move to Old Trafford.
Ajax’s technical manager Gerry Hamstra has revealed that the club have moved to sign Conceicao as an immediate replacement for Antony after openly discussing their transfer strategy for buying young talent to sell on for higher fees.
“On the one hand, you want to have immediately deployable players if you lose Champions League-worthy players,” Hamstra told Het Parool. “But at Ajax we also continue to think about the long term. How fast that happens depends on several factors.
“I can imagine that that goes a little faster with a Portuguese or European than with a boy from South America. So, Conceicao is another example of bringing the successor, in this case Antony, into your selection.
“We now want to keep this group together. I assume that no one leaves this core anymore. Of course, you can never say never, I’ve learned that by now.”
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That appears to be what Ajax are prepared to do with Antony, as the winger is poised to depart the Johan Cruijff Arena this summer. While the Dutch giants will only sell if their asking price is met, Ten Hag is keen to reunite with the player he signed from Sao Paulo in 2020.
Red Devils chief Richard Arnold made it clear he is willing to hand the Dutchman the funds to sign his targets, having already captured Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez this summer. And it appears a fee of around £60m could be enough to convince Ajax to cash in.
The Brazil international played an important role in their title success last season, scoring 12 goals and assisting 10 in 32 appearances. But the 22-year-old is keen to take on a new challenge with a bigger team after two years in Amsterdam.
Ajax have already sold Ryan Gravenberch and Sebastien Haller to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively and are not short of funds. But offloading Antony could allow them to raise the biggest fee the club have received since selling Frankie de Jong to Barcelona for £65m in 2019.
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