The Dutch defender is eager to become a superstar in Turin, but is aware that he must tread his own path rather than be dragged along by others
Matthijs de Ligt insists he will not “copy” the methods of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gianluigi Buffon in a bid to become a superstar in his own right, but the Dutch defender is looking to Juventus icons for inspiration.
At 21 years of age, the highly-rated Netherlands international centre-half is still in the process of learning his trade – despite being a former Ajax captain and a man closing in on 200 appearances at club level.
He has the perfect mentors around him in Turin, with a World Cup-winning goalkeeper and a Portuguese forward who has won the Ballon d’Or five times setting the standard for any promising youngster to aspire to.
What has been said?
De Ligt told The Telegraph on playing with Ronaldo and co: “I’m where I want to be and where I can learn as much as possible.
“There are experienced guys – [Giorgio] Chiellini, [Leonardo] Bonucci – but also a goalkeeper like Buffon and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“We all have our different characteristics and I do not try and copy them but I look at Ronaldo and see what he does, how he stays fit all the time.
“I ask for tips, for advice. What I have also learnt is that I need to do things that are good for me. In the end you find your own rhythm.”
De Ligt added on 43-year-old Buffon: “Well, he could be my father!
“It’s funny because when I see him and the way he behaves I don’t think he’s twice my age and that’s also his strength and why he is still playing. He plays with a head like a 29-year-old.”
How has De Ligt fared at Juventus?
Having had the pick of Europe’s top clubs when opting to leave his homeland in the summer of 2019, De Ligt was expected to see a meteoric rise continue in Italy.
A difficult debut campaign with the Serie A heavyweights saw questions asked of whether he could fulfil his undoubted potential under the brightest of spotlights.
Transfer rumours continue to surface at regular intervals , suggesting that another move could be on the cards, but De Ligt is determined to prove his worth with the Bianconeri.
The bigger picture
Andrea Pirlo has handed De Ligt 21 appearances across all competitions this season, allowing a steep learning curve to be maintained.
De Ligt has added on his quest for continuous improvement: “The art of defending is always to expect the worst.
“There are a lot of players who gamble it will go right for the team but I always think ‘what if my team-mate loses the ball? What if he (the opponent) gets the cross in?’
“So I am always thinking that way and in that way you will not be surprised so much because you can be as fast as possible or as strong as possible but if you don’t do this you will always get there a second too late or even a millisecond too late. It’s the most important thing that I have learnt here.”
Juve will be back in action on Tuesday when they take in the second leg of a Champions League last-16 encounter with Porto that they currently trail 2-1 on aggregate.