Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt is one of Europe’s best young defenders, but his time in Serie A could be coming to a close, with Chelsea among the teams interested in a transfer move
De Ligt has only spent two years with the perennial Serie A champions, but he has endured a mixed time at the Allianz Stadium.
The Dutchman had been regarded as one of Europe’s brightest young defenders following his breakthrough at Ajax, which saw him lead the club to the Champions League semi-finals.
His performances in the Netherlands, where he made 100 senior appearances before turning 20, earned him a move to Juventus for £67.5million.
Here, Mirror Football looks at De Ligt’s Juventus career and why he could soon be departing…
Snubbing Man Utd
Juventus were not the only team who made their interest in De Ligt clear when Ajax were ready to sell.
Manchester United were also keen to bring in the Dutch star, but De Ligt turned them down to move to Italy.
De Ligt has since revealed that Juventus’ confidence that could be a star, coupled with some encouragement from Cristiano Ronaldo ultimately saw him snub the Red Devils.
“Of course, I had a lot of time to choose between the clubs I could join and, when I put everything on paper, Juventus were the best choice for me,” he told Foot Truck in April 2020.
“Ronaldo did speak to me and obviously it was a big honour. Juventus told me ‘the reason we want to buy you is because you’re already mature and you know how to handle pressure.’
“They also said to me it was difficult for a 19-year-old to go to another country, but ‘we have confidence in you and you’ll find your place soon.’”
Despite that confidence in him though, De Ligt’s Juventus career has been decidedly mixed, with the defender failing to consistently hold down a place in the team.
Those issues started in his first season when Maurizio Sarri, when he made just 12 Serie A starts in the first half of the campaign.
Sarri admitted that the young Dutchman had been struggling to settle into life in Turin, with reports even emerging that he could return to Ajax on loan.
“He had five difficult months playing every three days and having to settle in a new country, a new league with a new language,” Sarri told Sky Italia at the time.
A shoulder injury hampered the first months of his second campaign, though he eventually became a key player for Andrea Pirlo.
Pirlo was sacked at the end of the season, with the Old Lady having only just creeped into the top four on the final day.
And since the Italian left, De Ligt has again found it difficult to maintain his place under Massimiliano Allegri.
Allegri dropped the defender for Juventus’ games against Napoli and AC Milan, before he returned to score the winning goal against Spezia, the Old Lady’s first win of the campaign.
Which club would be the best fit for Matthijs de Ligt if he left Juventus? Comment below.
The Juventus boss had attempted to play down talk that he did not trust De Ligt following the draw with Milan, insisting it was a tactical decision.
“Let’s just say I needed someone left-footed on that side, it’s not an issue of experience, because De Ligt has played many games already,” Allegri told DAZN.
“De Ligt has started three out of four, this is the fifth, and we have to rotate with a game coming up midweek. When you play every three days, rotation is necessary.”
£128m release clause
To add another level of intrigue to De Ligt’s situation in Italy, it emerged last week that the defender had a £128m release clause in his contract.
According to transfer insider Fabrizio Romano, that clause will be activated at the end of the season, though Juventus are hopeful of keeping him.
He does still have two years left on his contract at the Allianz Stadium, but the compartivley cheap release clause compared to his standing in the game will certainly be of interest.
De Ligt’s agent, Mino Raiola has wasted no time in trying to drum up interest in his client, heavily hinting he could be on the move.
“Pay attention because De Ligt could leave Juve at the end of the season. That’s how the market works, there are many clubs interested in signing him,” Raiola said.
The news of that release clause will interest a range of clubs, not least Chelsea who appear to be the frontrunners to sign the 22-year-old.
Thomas Tuchel has made signing a defender one of his top priorities for future transfer windows, having failed with a bid to bring in Jules Kounde from Sevilla.
And according to Calciomercato, the Blues have changed the focus of their attentions from Kounde to De Ligt.
The Dutchman is said to have impressed Tuchel with his technique and quality and is one of Chelsea’s “first goals” for next summer’s transfer window.
De Ligt would certainly bring in the quality that Tuchel is looking for in defence, with a number of his current first choices still having their future up in the air.