Veteran Dutch defender Jaap Stam believes Matthijs De Ligt must stay with Juventus for some time while also learning from Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
In a lengthy interview with TuttoJuve, Stam offered his thoughts on De Ligt’s time at Juve so far as well as revealing that he came very close to joining the Bianconeri at one point.
What is your opinion on Matthijs de Ligt’s first months wearing the Juventus shirt?
“My opinion towards him is positive, in the last few months he has expressed himself really well. He has been criticized a bit, but the initial difficulties were due to the fact that he had to understand how to adapt to a different type of football, and he’s still very young.
Matthijs plays in a great club that has great players and the pressures he is facing are much greater. Furthermore, to consider that the opponents faced in Italy are very different from those encountered in the Netherlands. Juventus invested a substantial amount to get him, many think he has been paid a lot, but in my opinion you just have to think about the continuous growth this boy has had up to now. For me he has been very good so far .”
You mentioned the difficulties initially encountered: did you expect them?
“Yes, in my opinion it is normal for such a young player to have difficulties. He started playing in a new league and in a top club – In the Netherlands it was simpler as the teams he faced were of a lower level. But it is really where he grew up, Ajax was a challenge for him. This experience provided the self-confidence necessary to face stronger teams. The current result is this: Juventus believes in him in the same way that Matthijs has trust in his own qualities. He is an intelligent boy on and off the field, he wants to learn and you can see that he always wants to do better. This is a good individual quality. He must also learn Italian as it is important to know how to communicate with his teammates.”
How important is it for him to play with strong defenders like Bonucci and Chiellini?
“It is very important for him to stay close to Bonucci and Chiellini because they are solid defenders, winners and used to playing great matches. In the Italian championship, they are the best in this role. Bonucci, when he moved to Milan, was not the Bonucci of Juventus, therefore it is not only the youngest ones who have to adapt but also those with more experience when they change teams. Their closeness is fundamental because they can teach him very well what he has to do, how to defend, how to stay united. The defensive approach is more like a team concept than in the Netherlands where you prefer one against one. ”
Do you think de Ligt could be your football heir?
“With a lot of honesty, I don’t know if he is the same as me. In some qualities he has, I would say yes, we are similar in the way we play, but not in everything. In some parts of the game he does something better than me and vice versa, it’s difficult to say, but he is not like me. I can add, however, that in some things, he resembles me.”
He looks a little like you, but not entirely. So which former player of the past could he look like?
“It is difficult to make a comparison with players from the past. He is physical, technically strong and capable of dictating the action, he also has a great sense of position. In Italy there were many strong players and I can’t find one, but I think he will be successful in Serie A and at Juventus. ”
Do you think De Ligt should stay at Juventus for many more years?
“In my opinion, it is essential that you stay because only in this way can you improve, compare yourself with the best, learn to manage the pressure in important matches in the Champions League and Serie A.”
A curiosity that perhaps no one has ever asked you: have you ever had thanks from the Juventus players after May 5, 2002?
“Inter were ahead, but we won and Juve won the Scudetto. The Juventus players didn’t thank me, I think they still have to do it. It would be nice to hear something from them (laughs). Seriously, that’s what happens in football. Sometimes we play the championship until the end. We wanted to do well, it was our last game, the last one at home, Lazio were very competitive, we wanted to do well against great teams and that’s what we did. We beat them, unfortunately for Inter they didn’t win the championship. Juve won it. But that’s what happens in football. I lived that too. Sometimes it’s hard but it happens, so I wished the best to Juve. Now I’m still waiting for that bottle of champagne! ”
Did you ever come close to joining Juventus?
“It’s true, I was very close to joining the club when I wore the Lazio shirt (in 2004) but I made a different choice. Not because I didn’t like Juve, on the contrary. I think it’s a great winning club with great fans, but I chose Milan. However, I have great respect for the Bianconeri. “