Matthijs de Ligt
Matthijs de Ligt (Dutch pronunciation: [mɑˈtɛis də ˈlɪxt]; born 12 August 1999) is a Dutch professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for Serie A club Juventus and the Netherlands national team.
De Ligt in training with Ajax in 2018
|Full name||Matthijs de Ligt|
|Date of birth||12 August 1999|
|Place of birth||Leiderdorp, Netherlands|
|Height||1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 23:10, 23 May 2021 (UTC)|
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 18:42, 27 June 2021 (UTC)
On 21 September 2016, De Ligt made his debut for Ajax's senior team in a cup game against Willem II. He scored from a corner after 25 minutes, making him the second-youngest goalscorer ever behind Clarence Seedorf. On 24 May, he became the youngest player ever (17 years and 285 days old) to play in a major European final when he started against Manchester United in the 2017 UEFA Europa League Final. On 17 December 2018, De Ligt won the Golden Boy award, becoming the first defender to win the award. The following season, he helped Ajax capture a domestic double and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League; his performances earned him a move to Serie A side Juventus, and saw him win the Kopa Trophy in 2019. He won the Serie A title during his first season with the Turin side.
In 2017, De Ligt made his debut for the Netherlands at the age of 17, making him the youngest player to start for the national team since 1931. He featured for the side at UEFA Euro 2020.
De Ligt joined the Ajax youth academy when he was 9 years old from his local club in Abcoude, just outside of Amsterdam. At first the coaches at the youth academy thought he was too slow and out of shape, but he was given a chance to develop in the academy and went on to prove his quality.
2016–17: Jong Ajax and development
On 21 September, De Ligt made his debut for Ajax's senior team in a cup game against Willem II. He scored from a corner after 25 minutes, making him the second-youngest goalscorer ever behind Clarence Seedorf; Ajax won the game 5–0. On 24 October, Ajax announced through Twitter that De Ligt had been promoted to the senior squad.
De Ligt quickly established himself in the first team after being promoted and went on to play in 11 league matches and nine in the Europa League. On 24 May, he became the youngest player ever (17 years and 285 days old) to play in a major European final when he started against Manchester United in the 2017 UEFA Europa League Final.
2017–19: Breakthrough and captaincy
After the sale of Davinson Sánchez to Tottenham Hotspur in August 2017, De Ligt became a first team starter. He was named the youngest captain of Ajax in March 2018 after injury to club captain Joel Veltman.
De Ligt appeared in 37 matches in all competitions and scored three goals. He started in all of his 31 league matches and played 90 minutes in all but one of them (he was substituted in the 33rd minute against Vitesse Arnhem due to an injury). Due to De Ligt's performances for Ajax, he was linked with many of Europe's top clubs.
On 17 December 2018, De Ligt won the Golden Boy award, becoming the first defender to win the award. On 13 February 2019, De Ligt became the youngest ever captain in a Champions League knockout game at 19 years and 186 days old, in a game against Real Madrid. On 27 February 2019, he played his 100th official game for Ajax in a 0–3 Klassieker win against Feyenoord in the Dutch national cup, becoming the youngest Ajax player ever to reach this milestone.
On 16 April 2019, De Ligt scored the winning goal in the Champions League quarter-final against Juventus to send Ajax on to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since the 1996–97 edition of the tournament. His goal also saw him become the youngest Dutch player to score in the knockout stages since Nordin Wooter in 1996 and the second-youngest ever defender to score after Joël Matip.
On 18 July 2019, De Ligt signed for Serie A champions Juventus on a five-year contract for a fee of €75 million, to be paid in five annual installments, with additional costs of €10.5 million. He made his official debut for the club in a 4–3 home win over Napoli in Serie A on 31 August. On 3 November, he scored his first for the club in a 1–0 away win over cross-city rivals Torino in the Derby della Mole.
On 25 March 2017, De Ligt made his debut for the Dutch national team in a 2–0 away defeat to Bulgaria in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification match. National team coach, Danny Blind, called De Ligt up for the national team despite having only started two league games for Ajax. At the age of 17, he became the youngest player to start for the national team since 1931.
During the UEFA Nations League, De Ligt started and played 90 minutes in all four group matches against Germany and France as the Netherlands won the group and qualified for the inaugural Nations League Finals. In the semi-finals on 5 June, he scored a header against England as his team secured a spot in the final, where the Netherlands would be defeated 0–1 by Portugal.
Style of play
De Ligt is considered by pundits to be among the most highly regarded young prospects in world football, as demonstrated by his victory in the 2018 Golden Boy award, which is assigned to the most impressive young player in European football.
Having played as an attacking midfielder in his youth, De Ligt is both a physical and technically gifted right-footed centre-back, who is known for his clean tackling, anticipation, marking, height, strength, speed and accurate passing, which enables him to start attacking plays from the back; moreover, his height allows him to be a major threat from set pieces, whilst his strength means that he is unlikely to be pushed off the ball, particularly in aerial duels. His playing style is often compared to that of Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué; he has also been likened to Jan Vertonghen, due to his "similar forward surges, a propensity to create an extra man in midfield, and calmness on the ball," and to compatriot Ronald Koeman, courtesy of his "powerful shot and body strength."
A 2019 UEFA.com profile described De Ligt with the following words: "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." That same year, Paul Wilkes of The Independent also noted that "De Ligt’s ability to play out from the back and organise his fellow teammates are valuable commodities in a time when the lack of quality defenders has been highlighted."
Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher praised De Ligt for his "physical attributes" and "leadership qualities". Furthermore, Carragher went on to say he plays "like he's 24 or 25" indicating maturity and strength. Former Netherlands centre-back Jaap Stam said De Ligt: "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." Upon signing with Juventus, one of the club's former managers, Marcello Lippi, instead said of the defender's precocious performances: "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."
In 2019, Giacomo Chiuchiolo described De Ligt as a "complete" and talented young defender, noting that although he is not exceptionally quick, he possesses excellent positioning and an ability to read the game, among his other technical and physical qualities. Despite his talent, however, he has come under criticism at times in the media for being inconsistent, due to his tendency to commit occasional lapses or errors, although his Juventus defensive teammate Leonardo Bonucci has stated that he believes that De Ligt will overcome these weaknesses with time, as he matures and gains more experience with age, and successfully adapts to the team's new defensive strategy under manager Maurizio Sarri, who uses a zonal system rather than man–to–man marking.
On 8 January 2021, de Ligt tested positive for COVID-19 amid its pandemic in Italy; he recovered by 23 January.
|Jong Ajax||2016–17||Eerste Divisie||17||1||—||—||—||17||1|
- Scores and results list the Netherlands' goal tally first, score column indicates score after each de Ligt goal.
|1||24 March 2019||Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands||15||Germany||1–2||2–3||UEFA Euro 2020 qualification|
|2||6 June 2019||Estádio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimarães, Portugal||16||England||1–1||3–1 (a.e.t.)||2019 UEFA Nations League Finals|
- Eredivisie: 2018–19
- KNVB Cup: 2018–19
- UEFA Europa League runner-up: 2016–17
- Serie A: 2019–20
- Coppa Italia: 2020–21; runner-up: 2019–20
- Supercoppa Italiana: 2020; runner-up: 2019
- Best player of ABN AMRO Future Cup: 2015
- Best player of Copa Amsterdam: 2015
- Ajax Talent of the Future (Sjaak Swart Award): 2016
- UEFA European Under-17 Championship Team of the Tournament: 2016
- Ajax Talent of the Year (Marco van Basten Award): 2018
- UEFA Europa League Squad of the Season: 2016–17
- UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season: 2018–19
- Eredivisie Team of the Year: 2017–18, 2018–19
- Dutch Football Talent of the Year: 2017–18
- Dutch Footballer of the Year: 2018–19
- Golden Boy: 2018
- The Best FIFA Men's Player: 2019 (9th place)
- FIFA FIFPro World11: 2019
- IFFHS Men's World Team: 2019
- Kopa Trophy: 2019
- UEFA Team of the Year: 2019
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