During his first season at Juventus, Matthijs de Ligt mostly played alongside Leonardo Bonucci at the back, as Giorgio Chiellini was recovering from a serious injury.
This term, the young Dutchman has been given the chance to play side-by-side with his captain, and he seems to be learning a great deal from the veteran.
The Ajax man gave an interview to De Volkskrant, as translated by Football Italia, and he explained the difference between playing football in his native country, and his current experience in Calcio, where defending is described as an art.
“I’ve grown so much mentally and feel far more mature since I’ve been at Juventus,” said the defender.
“I had to get used to a different style of football in Italy, the way the forwards move. When I was at Ajax, the focus was far more on the individual striker, whereas now I have to look at the zone too. Don’t always chase the man with the ball, but also keep an eye on the striker who is running into space. It’s all about evaluating the best option.
“Chiellini is a master in that sense. He has so much experience, I learned a great deal from him. Defending is an art form in Italy, it’s wonderful to be able to show what I can really do here. That was my objective.”
Besides his captain, the 21-year-old has been learning from the other veterans present at the club, including the illusive Cristiano Ronaldo, and the iconic Gianluigi Buffon.
“The way Ronaldo lives the sport, keeps himself in shape and is so motivated at the age of 36 is fantastic. The same goes for Chiellini and even Gigi Buffon at 43. They are all super professional.”
Although the fans in the Netherlands are considered to be passionate towards their clubs, de Ligt explains that Calcio fanatics are on a whole different level when it comes to living the sport.
“In Holland, the fans are passionate and want their team to win, but it’s over once the final whistle blows. In Italy, three days later they are still talking about some penalty that wasn’t awarded. They think about football constantly.
“If your team loses against a rival, the fans experience a horrible week and we sense it too,” concluded the defender.
The defender is expected to start in Juve’s crucial match against Inter on Saturday evening, where he’ll be facing some tough opponents in the form of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.