“I’m still young but I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience for a 19-year-old,” said Matthijs de Ligt as he was formally unveiled as a Juventus player today. “After the Nations League final I was already sure that I wanted to join Juventus, but it was still a big compliment to have Cristiano Ronaldo ask me to come here.”

The former Ajax central defender added: “There are four competitions and we want to win them all. This is the Juventus mentality. I came here because Italy is one of the most important countries for defenders. Juventus is a great forward step for me.” UEFA.com celebrates how far he has come already.

Name: Matthijs de Ligt
Club: Ajax
Debut: 21 September 2016 v Willem II (Dutch Cup)
Position: centre-back
Nationality: Dutch
Born: 12 August 1999
Preferred foot: right
Height: 183cm

What they say …


De Ligt scores at the Nations League finals

“I’ve seen plenty of greats, like Alessandro Nesta, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Ciro Ferrara, Fabio Cannavaro, and Marco Materazzi. I’ve never seen anyone like that at his age.”
Marcello Lippi, former Italy and Juventus coach

“We played against De Ligt [in 2017] and he already seemed like a 26-year-old, much more experienced than he was. Physically he is very strong. Now, two years later, he is genuinely a fantastic football player.”
José Mourinho, former Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United coach

“This lad is making great steps and he has a wonderful future ahead of him. He is well advanced for his age – he showed that in training and that’s why we selected him for the first team.”
Peter Bosz, former Ajax coach, in 2016

“He’s got composure on the ball, he’s aggressive tactically, he sees the game, he reads the game well and he’s got that driving force for himself as well in what you need to achieve and where you want to go to.”
Jaap Stam, former Netherlands and Manchester United defender

Background …

Watch De Ligt set up a goal at the U17 EURO


Watch De Ligt set up a goal at the U17 EURO

Born in Leiderdorp, De Ligt did not take up football until he was six, initially preferring tennis. He impressed scouts during a three-year spell at local club FC Abcoude before joining Ajax at nine. He made his senior debut a few weeks after his 17th birthday and quickly established himself in the first team. Six months later he won his first international cap.

Playing style …

A natural leader, De Ligt is an elegant two-footed central defender. Dominant in the air, he is blessed with strength, fine distribution and composure, and is able to play out from the back thanks to his confidence in possession, while his intelligent positioning helps him deny pacy forwards. With his ability to read the game, he could even play in midfield. His leadership also stands him out: he was 18 when he was made Ajax skipper.

Shades of …

He has been likened to Jan Vertonghen and Gerard Piqué due to similar forward surges, a propensity to create an extra man in midfield, and calmness on the ball. However, a powerful shot and body strength draw parallels with Ronald Koeman.

Eureka moment …

De Ligt making his Eredivisie debut from the bench


De Ligt making his Eredivisie debut from the bench©Getty Images

On 21 September 2016 he capped a memorable first-team debut at the Johan Cruijff Arena by registering with a trademark towering header in a 5-0 Dutch Cup success against Willem II, becoming Ajax’s second-youngest goalscorer ever, after another man who went on to star in Serie A, Clarence Seedorf.

The defender also emulated club heroes Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Patrick Kluivert by scoring on his debut. Featuring in a UEFA Europa League group stage game against Panathinaikos in November, he became (at 17 years, 104 days) the club’s youngest ever European starter. Three days later, De Ligt made his league debut against Heerenveen as a substitute.

Best-case scenario …

The sky’s the limit! Having come close to European silverware twice already, De Ligt will hope to make it third time lucky at Juventus. He won the Dutch double last season and more domestic success must be on the cards in Turin. Then there’s the international front, where his partnership with Virgil van Dijk has provided the bedrock of the Netherlands’ rejuvenation. UEFA EURO 2020, anyone?

He says …

“Everything’s going very fast. It’s going very well now, but you need to watch out that you don’t take a dive.”

“I think around the age of 16, I knew that I could make it. It wasn’t easy, but I knew that I had the ability to become a player.”

“I’m still young but I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience for a 19-year-old. That’s why I made this move to gain more experience and to learn from the players here. It’s a big step, my first outside of my home country. I was really honoured with how the Juventus fans welcomed me and I hope that I can give a lot back.”


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