Since his mortal blunder against the Czech Republic in Euro 2020, things haven’t quite been the same for Matthijs de Ligt with the Dutch national team.
The defender’s reaction was quicker than his reasoning, as he deliberately handed the ball to prevent Patrik Schick from going towards goal.
The Juventus man was consequently sent out, which eventually led to his team’s elimination from the tournament’s round of 16.
That incident, coupled with Virgil van Dijk’s return to the pitch, left the young center back on the outside looking in.
Since the European Championship, de Ligt only made one appearance for the Netherlands, as the returning manager, Louis van Gaal, clearly ranks him behind van Dijk and Stefan de Vrij in the pecking order.
During the October international break, the Dutch side played two matches against lower-level oppositions – beating Latvia with a lone goal, before dismantling Gibraltar with six unanswered strikes.
During these two matches, the Bianconeri youngster wasn’t handed a single minute on the pitch, as the coach opted to maintain his starting duo composed of the Liverpool and Inter defenders.
So while Max Allegri might be relieved to see his star returning all fit and healthy from international duty, one must wonder about his current state of mind.
Since 2018, the former Ajax captain has been regarded as one of the best rising young defenders in the game. But being overlooked for his country’s encounter against one of the weakest sides in the continent could hurt his self confidence.
However, Matthijs must now showcase his mental strength and prove his doubters wrong. He needs to be more determined than ever before and prove his status as one of the best in the world while helping the Old Lady overcoming her complicated start to the season.
Football careers at the top level rarely make for a smooth sailing, and mental strength is the main aspect that defines the greats of the game and separates them from the rest of the pool.
Between Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini on one hand, and van Dijk and de Vrij on the other, the 22-year-old is forced to constantly prove his worth in order to cement himself a starting spot at the expense of the elite.
However, this is exactly the type of great adversity that often helps in forging a great career, and most Juventus fans firmly believe that de Ligt isn’t one to crack under the immense pressure.