Juventus’ New Cornerstone: Matthijs de Ligt
A Case for the Dutch Defense
The Dutch defensive colossus is a mere 20-years-old. He signed in June last year in a deal worth €75 million, penning a five-year deal with the Old Lady.
The youngster belies his formative years – built like a tank and as strong as a horse. At Ajax, he was the youngest captain in their history. He was also their youngest captain in a Champions League knockout game. The Dutchman would hold the captaincy with great distinction, leadership and class.
European Prowess of de Ligt
De Ligt was a runner-up in the Europa League final in 2016 and a semi-finalist in the Champions League from last season. His maturity sets him apart in his age group. This was demonstrated with his passionate speech at Ajax’s Championship parade. He said: “What’s more important is that we have shown everyone what Ajax is about. What kind of city Amsterdam is.
“We have shown everyone what we stand for and that is attacking football. We’ve shown everyone what the big man above us (Johan Cruyff) wanted us to see. And what he expected from us.
“We did it all together: experienced players, youth players, everyone. And the supporters, we want to thank you for a fantastic season.”
Options Plentiful for Matthijs de Ligt
After participating with The Netherlands at the UEFA Nations League, where they were beaten finalists to Portugal, de Ligt took time out to mull over all the options he had on the table – and there was a host of them, looking like a who’s who of elite clubs: Barcelona, Bayern Münich, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City all tried and failed to seduce the young star.
Another sign of his maturity would be in taking the necessary time and consideration of his next move. He knew full well it would be the biggest of big steps. Barcelona came close to claiming his signature – offering the opportunity to join up with former colleague and close friend Frenkie de Jong not to mention playing with the mercurial Lionel Messi.
Also, he would have had the opportunity to continue in the tradition of many successful Dutch players to play at the Camp Nou outfit. Yet, he refused.
The Old Lady Wins Over New Signing de Ligt
In his official first press conference as a Juventus player, de Ligt stated his opinion to join Juventus was purely to learn from the best defensive talent in the game. Who better to learn from than the might of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. De Ligt recognised the fact he wound learn his craft in the best way under their tutelage. Also, there was the fact that Serie A is known for being defensively more tactical with more emphasis placed on defensive duties as a whole – it was right up de Ligt’s street.
The Turin outfit knew that their ageing backline needed a makeover. They have been the foundation for their unprecedented success of eight league titles in a row, as well as their two impressive Champions League final matches. However, fresh blood needed to be sought to continue this successful era in which they are experiencing and Juventus struck gold with de Ligt.
De Ligt in Development
At Juventus, he would be given the ability to grow even more as a defender, which says a lot considering the brute of a man he is already. His main focus was to continue his impressive development. But did it all go to plan?
Shaky Start in Serie A
Not exactly. His life in Serie A started very erratically by making many defensive errors. He was unable to initially acclimatize himself to the more tactical conditions of the Calcio. De Ligt was at fault for a few early dropped points. However, fast forward to now and he has managed to recuperate his game. He scored his first goal in the Black and White in the derby against Torino.
A Vital Component
Since the resumption of football, he has been an ever-present and is showing the signs of why Juventus bought him. Twenty-nine appearances with four goals is the worth he has brought. He has shown his strength, dependability and defensive qualities as time has passed. Due to this, he has become an important pillar for the team which has won yet another Serie A title – their ninth in a row.
Champions League Exit
Although domestically Juventus are a juggernaut, the Old Lady continue to fail in Europe’s premium competition. The Black and Whites were defeated by Lyon in the Champions League last week, a result which saw the end of the road for coach Maurizio Sarri, who was sacked just a week after lifting his first Serie A title.
In terms of Matthijs de Ligt however, as the season has gone on, it is clear that the Dutchman has ultimately flourished as Juventus’ new cornerstone. Expect more to come next season.