• Analysis

Opinion: Matthijs de Ligt has shut his Juventus critics down

Matthijs de Ligt, Juventus, Serie A
Getty Images

Matthijs de Ligt’s exceptional performance against Atalanta proves that nobody should question his decision to pick Juventus over Barcelona anymore.

The first few months into Matthijs de Ligt’s Juventus career haven’t been easy, to say the least.

The Bianconeri had no choice but to fast forward his progress into the team when captain Giorgio Chiellini suffered a serious knee injury in August.  It left De Ligt in a very difficult position indeed.

The 20-year-old suddenly had no time at all to adapt to the demands of Serie A football, and consequently suffered. Errors and lapses in concentration, in particular, were a regular thing in his first few weeks.

This was a harrowing experience for De Ligt, who had known nothing like it before at Ajax. However, he didn’t let the ordeal get him down and always insisted the performances in Italy would improve.

And the defender finally got his big break by scoring the winner in Juventus’ recent 1-0 derby win over Torino. He hasn’t looked back since, and has been one of Maurizio Sarri’s strongest performers in recent weeks.

De Ligt was exceptional against Atalanta

Gonzalo Higuain stole the headlines on Saturday as his quick-fire brace allowed Juventus to launch a late comeback after going a goal down from Robin Gosens’ 56th-minute header.

Paulo Dybala’s injury-time effort then sealed all three points for Sarri’s men on his 200th Serie A appearance. The result enabled them to stay a point clear of Inter Milan at the top of the Serie A table.

But one aspect of the game that went relatively unnoticed was De Ligt’s own performance in Bergamo.

The Netherlands international was in exceptional form, and was alert throughout the entire match. He made a fantastic block in the first-half to keep Atalanta at bay, and dominated in the air.

WhoScored stats showed us that De Ligt made a team-best of four interceptions, three tackles and four aerial duels won.

He also did five clearances in the match, had an 87% pass accuracy with five of his seven crosses reaching their target.

Perhaps the most impressive thing, though, was the way De Ligt continued despite sustaining a shoulder problem in the second half. He still went all out to guard the Juventus goal even when Luis Muriel was in a dangerous position.

Time to end the Barcelona talk

Patrick Kluivert stirred up the Barcelona talk all over again by claiming De Ligt “regrets” turning down a Camp Nou move.

The 20-year-old’s stunning displays for Ajax last season made him a top target for Europe’s biggest clubs. And Barcelona were the alleged front-runners for a long time until Juventus poached him last summer.

Considering former Ajax team-mate Frenkie de Jong’s success in Catalonia, however, there have been doubts over De Ligt’s decision to head to Turin.

But the Dutchman’s recent performances suggest he’s finally turned a corner in his Juventus career. Therefore, it’s time to end this silly talk once and for all as De Ligt is clearly content in Italy.

The sky is the limit for him, and Juventus still have plenty more potential to unlock from their €75m defender.

Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus
Getty Images

As the season continues, in fact, De Ligt’s importance for Sarri will probably increase as he continues to adapt. It will actually set-up an interesting little dilemma for the Juventus coach, when Chiellini returns.

The veteran centre-back recently declared he expects to return from injury between February and March. However, De Ligt could very well have established himself as Leonardo Bonucci’s partner in the Bianconeri defence.