Matthijs de Ligt

Matthijs de Ligt (Dutch pronunciation: [mɑˈtɛis də ˈlɪxt]; born 12 August 1999) is a Dutch professional footballer who plays as a defender for Serie A club Juventus and the Netherlands national team.[3]

Matthijs de Ligt
Matthijs de Ligt 2018.jpg
De Ligt in training with Ajax in 2018
Personal information
Full name Matthijs de Ligt[1]
Date of birth (1999-08-12) 12 August 1999 (age 20)
Place of birth Leiderdorp, Netherlands
Height 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)[2]
Playing position(s) Centre-back
Club information
Current team
Juventus
Number 4
Youth career
2008–2016 Ajax
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2016–2017 Jong Ajax 17 (1)
2016–2019 Ajax 77 (8)
2019– Juventus 24 (3)
National team
2014–2015 Netherlands U15 5 (0)
2014–2015 Netherlands U16 8 (0)
2015–2016 Netherlands U17 14 (1)
2016 Netherlands U19 6 (0)
2017– Netherlands 23 (2)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 4 July 2020
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 19 November 2019

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.[4] 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.[5] On 17 December 2018, De Ligt won the Golden Boy award, becoming the first defender to win the award.[6] 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.

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.[7]

Club careerEdit

AjaxEdit

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.[8]

2016–17: Jong Ajax and developmentEdit

He made his debut for Jong Ajax on 8 August 2016 in an Eerste Divisie game against FC Emmen, playing the full game.[9] During the season, De Ligt played in 17 matches for Jong Ajax.[10]

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.[4] On 24 October, Ajax announced through Twitter that De Ligt had been promoted to the senior squad.[11]

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.[12] 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.[5]

2017–19: Breakthrough and captaincyEdit

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.[13]

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).[14] Due to De Ligt's performances for Ajax, he was linked with many of Europe's top clubs.[15]

On 17 December 2018, De Ligt won the Golden Boy award, becoming the first defender to win the award.[6] 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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18][19] 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.[20]

JuventusEdit

 
De Ligt blocking a shot against Lokomotiv Moscow during the 2019–20 season

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.[21] He made his official debut for the club in a 4–3 home win over Napoli in Serie A on 31 August.[22] 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.[23][24]

International careerEdit

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.[7]

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.[25] In the semi-finals on 5 June, he scored a header against England as his team secured a spot in the final,[26] where the Netherlands would be defeated 0–1 by Portugal.[27]

Style of playEdit

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.[28][29]

Having played as an attacking midfielder in his youth,[30] De Ligt is both a physical and technically gifted right-footed centre-back,[31][32] 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.[32][33][34][35] His playing style is often compared to that of Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué;[36][37] 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."[38]

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."[38] 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."[39]

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.[40][41][42] 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."[38] 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."[38]

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.[43] 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.[44]

Career statisticsEdit

ClubEdit

As of match played 4 July 2020[3]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National Cup Europe1 Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Jong Ajax 2016–17 Eerste Divisie 17 1 17 1
Ajax 2016–17 Eredivisie 11 2 3 1 9 0 23 3
2017–18 Eredivisie 33 3 2 0 4 0 39 3
2018–19 Eredivisie 33 3 5 1 17 3 55 7
Total 77 8 10 2 30 2 0 0 117 13
Juventus 2019–20 Serie A 24 3 4 0 5 0 0 0 33 3
Career total 118 12 14 2 35 2 0 0 167 17

1 Includes UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches.

InternationalEdit

As of match played 19 November 2019[3]
National team Year Apps Goals
Netherlands 2017 3 0
2018 10 0
2019 10 2
Total 23 2

International goalsEdit

As of match played 19 November 2019. Netherlands score listed first, score column indicates score after each De Ligt goal.
International goals by date, venue, cap, opponent, score, result and competition
No. Date Venue Cap Opponent Score Result Competition Ref.
1 24 March 2019 Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands 15   Germany 1–2 2–3 UEFA Euro 2020 qualification [45]
2 6 June 2019 Estádio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimarães, Portugal 16   England 1–1 3–1 (a.e.t.) 2019 UEFA Nations League Finals [46]

HonoursEdit

Ajax

Juventus

Netherlands

Individual

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit