Matthijs de Ligt is currently battling with Merih Demiral, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini for a regular spot in the heart of the Juventus defence, but that doesn’t distract him from the admiration he has for his rivals.
The Dutch defender joined from Ajax 18 months ago, and has been a hit in Turing. The centre-back has shown maturity beyond his 21 years, and not only looks like a player for the now, but a leader for the future.
De Ligt admits that he use to play as a holding midfielder, trying to mould his game on legends Sergio Busquets and Andrea Pirlo, before making the switch to defence at the age of 14, and speaks of his admiration for his new coach.
“Up until the age of 14 at Ajax, I played as a deep-lying midfielder and had two models to follow: Sergio Busquets and Andrea Pirlo,” De Ligt told Sky Sport Italia (via FootballItalia).
“I watched so many Pirlo videos and really liked him as a player. He was a great example for me to follow.”
De Ligt was then asked his thoughts on working alongside the likes of Chiellini and Bonucci, who are not only still at the top of the game now, but are also legends of the game in their own right.
“Bonucci is such a strong defender,” the 21-year-old added. “He has this great vision and is very good on the ball.
“He can make both long and short passes accurately, and that is important for me, because I know that I have a lot to learn in that respect.
“Chiellini’s man-marking in the box is incredible, I’ve never seen anyone like him. I often tell him it looks like he has a magnet in his head, he’s always in the right position. He really is incredible.
“I think that I am in good shape physically, I feel stronger and quicker, while I also learned a huge amount tactically since coming to Italy.
“At Ajax, we did a lot of man-marking, whereas in Serie A it’s more zonal. Having experience of both systems therefore makes me a better player.”
If Matthijs can add some of their qualities to the talent he already possesses, he could truly become the best centre-back in world football over the coming seasons, and it is refreshing to hear a player of his stature speak highly of his elders.