A closer look at new Juventus signing Matthijs De Ligt

Juventus have won the race to sign Ajax teenager Matthijs De Ligt.

The 19-year-old central defender was one of the hottest properties in world football and starred in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals.

He courted interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs this summer before signing a five-year deal at Juve.

Here, PA takes a look at the youngest player ever to captain Ajax.

Starting out

Tottenham Hotspur Training and Press Conference – Ajax Stadium
Matthijs De Ligt joined the Ajax academy at the age of nine (Adam Davy/PA)

De Ligt was born in the town of Leiderdorp in western Holland on August 12, 1999. He was a keen tennis player before focusing on football. De Ligt joined the Ajax youth academy at the age of nine from his local club in Abcoude, just south of Amsterdam. By the age of 16, he was training with the first team and destined for stardom.

Dropping back

Ajax v Manchester United – UEFA Europa League Final – Friends Arena
De Ligt, right, regularly played as a midfielder at the Ajax academy before breaking into the first team (Nick Potts/PA)

Former Ajax academy coach Ruben Jongkind, the man who helped to devise and implement the Cruyff Plan at the Eredivisie club between 2011 and 2015, often played De Ligt in central midfield. “He has to play in the midfield because one of his problems is the speed of his actions and his decision-making,” he said. Jongkind insisted that De Ligt would become a centre-back for the first team by developing his skills as “a number six”.

Stam comparisons

Man U/N’castle Dalglish
Matthijs De Ligt has been compared to the former Manchester United and Holland defender Jaap Stam (Owen Humphreys/PA)

De Ligt has been compared to the former Manchester United and Holland defender Jaap Stam. The two men share the same impressive physical stature, although De Ligt was considered a bit chubby in his youth. Like Stam, De Ligt is an aggressive tackler, comfortable on the ball and dangerous from set-pieces. Stam has said of De Ligt: “He’s a great player. He’s only a youngster. But in how he plays, he’s an adult.”

Making waves

After just 17 games for Jong Ajax, De Ligt made his senior debut in a cup game against Willem II. He scored after 25 minutes, making him Ajax’s second-youngest goalscorer ever behind Clarence Seedorf. De Ligt was named the youngest captain of Ajax in March 2018. He is also the youngest-ever captain in a Champions League knockout game (19 years and 186 days old) and the youngest player to play 100 games for Ajax.

National service

Netherlands v England – International Friendly – Amsterdam ArenA
De Ligt, right, won his first cap for Holland at the age of 17 (Nick Potts/PA)

Former Holland coach Danny Blind called De Ligt up for the national team despite the teenager having only started two league games for Ajax. De Ligt made his debut in a 2-0 away defeat to Bulgaria in a World Cup qualifier in March 2017. At the age of 17, he became the youngest player to start for Holland since 1931 and, under Ronald Koeman, he helped Oranje reach last month’s Nations League final.