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Matthijs de Ligt: Juventus' New Gem Turns 20

Matthijs de Ligt, Juventus’ new centre back, is perhaps the hottest property in world football right now. The Dutch defender turns just 20 years old today and has the world at his feet already.

Ishaan Dutta
Last updated: 12.08.2019
Matthijs de Ligt: Juventus' New Gem Turns 20 | Sports Social Blog

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It is not inconceivable to see de Ligt eventually writing his name alongside the greatest defenders to have played the game. He will be turning out for the Old Lady this season, after a stunning breakthrough season with Ajax, who he captained to the Eredivisie title as well as a fairytale UEFA Champions League campaign, ending at the semi-finals. De Ligt was vital for his national team as well, forming a formidable partnership with Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Dutch defense, inspiring the Oranje to the UEFA Nations League runners up spot. 

He first shot to prominence in the 2016-17 season when he started getting minutes in Ajax’s cup games. After scoring on his debut and putting in solid performances regularly, he became an important part of the team, helping them reach the Europa League final, being the youngest to ever play one. He has since developed steadily, becoming club captain and one of the finest central defenders in the world. “There is no need for comparisons, but I’ve seen plenty of greats, like Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, and Marco Materazzi. I’ve never seen anyone like that at his age" said legendary manager Marcello Lippi, such is his talent.

From a first glance, with his baby face charming smile, one would not assume him to be the ferocious and aggressive defender he is. Not just that, de Ligt is a natural athlete with a superb technical ability on the ball as well. He has the habit of turning up in big games under pressure, especially with important goals showing what a complete defender he is turning out to be. In the past season, de Ligt scored against Juventus both home and away, as well as against Spurs, important goals in the knockout stages. His other stats are mightily impressive as well- Most accurate passes in the Eredivisie since 2017(3833) with an accuracy of 89%, he really is the complete package.


Despite being a boy, he has also shown himself to be a proven leader of men. His speech at Ajax's title ceremony in front of approximately a trillion people in Amsterdam was an exemplification of that. 

We showed to the great above us [Johan Cruyff] what he wanted and what he expected from us and we did it with us all, experienced players, youth players, everyone, the supporters. We want to to thank you  for this great season, and we will see you next time."

Along with national teammate and close friend Frenkie de Jong, de Ligt was the leading light of the brilliant young Ajax team of last year, forming a brilliant defense-midfield partnership to open up their free-flowing attacks. With the defensive solidity of de Ligt, and de Jong’s creativity, Ajax went on to score 119 goals in the Eredivisie, cruising to the title. But the main highlight was their Champions League season, where they beat giants like Real Madrid, Juventus, and Spurs, before crashing out agonizingly from a 90th min goal at Tottenham in the semi-finals.

The duo has shone on the international stage as well, ushering in a new age for a young Dutch team after four years of darkness for the Oranje. To think that de Ligt and de Jong are just 20 and 22 years old, with their peak years ahead, is a scary proposition for any opponent.

So this summer, after being courted by every top European club, de Ligt joined Juventus in a £67.5m deal. It was a sensible choice on all accounts. They are one of the favourites to win the UEFA ​Champions League next season. It is a club at which he can hone his craft alongside genuine legends of the game, in Chiellini and Buffon and of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, who reportedly told de Ligt to join him in Turin, after the Nations League final.

Matthijs de Ligt has given himself the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest defensive minds in history and become what he is supposed to be: a world shaker - one of the best defenders the world has ever seen.

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