Jasper Cillessen has encouraged Barcelona to step up the pursuit of Ajax starlet Matthijs de Ligt after claiming that his national teammate "has all the skills to be one of the best defenders around".

The 18-year-old centre-back has garnered a reputation as one of the next big things to emerge from the club's prolific academy since making his first-team debut during a KNVB beker cup game against Willem II in September 2016.

The Dutchman has since made 47 appearances for the first-team despite his age, including a starting appearance in last season's Europa League final against Manchester United.

Earlier in October, Mundo Deportivo reported that Barcelona had identified him as Ernesto Valverde's number one target to bolster the back-line ahead of the 2018-19 season.

The La Liga giants have since signed Yerry Mina from Palmeiras but Valverde is still keen on adding another young centre-back to his ranks ahead of next season.

Javier Mascherano is expected to complete a move to Hebei China Fortune this month while the long-term future of 32-year-old Thomas Vermaelen at the Nou Camp has been under some scrutiny despite his recent impressive form.

Last month Mundo Deportivo reported that Barcelona faced a big battle to sign De Ligt with Borussia Dortmund considering securing his services now and keep him at Ajax until the summer.

The Spanish publication added that luring the starlet away from Ajax won't come cheap with the Eredivisie side holding out for around €50m (£44m, $61m) after they sold Davinson Sanchez to Tottenham Hotspur for a similar fee in the summer.

Cillessen has backed Barcelona to battle for his services, and has tipped his international colleague to adapt to the Catalan's style of play.

Pressed by Mundo Deportivo whether De Ligt could follow the same footsteps in the future, Cillessen said: "Of course. He has all the skills to be one of the best defenders around. He is strong, he defends well, he is good with head and uses both legs. Every good player could play here."

"I think he's the typical Ajax defender. That's why people think that he can play here. He is strong, young, quick and plays with both legs. I played with him a few times and you can see his mentality despite his youth. He is a great guy. He has had bad times but [those struggles] have helped him to learn and become the player who he is now."

Matthijs de Ligt
Matthijs de Ligt has already made 47 appearances for Ajax. Getty