Juventus legend Andrea Barzagli believes current centre-back Matthijs de Ligt will become “the best in the world” in his position.
De Ligt, 21, joined the Italian giants as a teenager from Ajax in 2019 for a bumper £67.5m, though his first season in Turin was beset by injury problems.
The 30-capped Netherlands international took a while to settle in Serie A, but more recently he has started to look like a Juventus centre-back, acclimatising to the hustle and bustle of Italian football and playing with a confidence both on and off the ball.
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Given his recent showings Barzagli, who reached two Champions League finals with Juventus and made nearly 300 appearances in Turin, believes the Dutchman will go one to become second to none at centre-back in the sport, giving him just a “few years” to reach that level.
“Surely in a few years he will be the best in the world,” he told Tuttosport. “He has everything to become it, starting with a great mentality.
“He has countless means. He’s awake, Matthijs. He really has everything to become an absolute top player, but you have to give him time to grow.
“I was in Serie C at his age, while he plays for Juventus and the Netherlands. Even if you are as cold as he is, it’s impossible not to suffer a little bit from the pressure he has, starting with the £67.5m invested by Juventus.”
Sergio Brio: De Ligt is the best centre-back in Serie A
De Ligt has been in the spotlight this summer for all the wrong reasons, with the young defender heavily criticised for the red card he collected in the Netherlands’ 2-0 defeat to Czech Republic in Euro 2020, which led to their elimination from the competition.
With the round-of-16 match delicately poised at the Puskas Arena, De Ligt was handed an early bath by referee Sergei Karasev, getting sent off in the 55th minute, with Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick proceeding to find the back of the net and send Frank de Boer’s men home.
During the tournament Dutch immortal Marco Van Basten produced a stinging criticism of De Ligt, in which he said the 21-year-old has failed to learn anything about defending in Italy — often considered the best defensive division in the world — but legendary Juve centre-back, Sergio Brio, has leapt to his defence.
Matthijs de Ligt became Ajax's youngest ever captain at the age of 20 and guided them to their eighth domestic double.
A worthy recipient of the Marco van Basten Award.
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 22, 2021
“De Ligt is the best defender in Serie A, and I honestly can’t share the opinion of the great Van Basten. In Italy he has grown a lot and is still developing,” he told Tuttosport last month.
“There isn’t a more formative league for defenders than ours. What excites me about De Ligt, moreover, is his age. He is not yet 22, and he is very strong. he can become a real phenomenon, because experience is the factor that improves a defender the most.
“De Ligt will acquire more malice and concentration, becoming stronger and stronger. I have always considered him the real great signing of Juventus in the recent years. Even more important than Ronaldo.
“I’m sure of what I’m saying, mainly because I understand young defenders. I predicted a great career for Simon Kjaer when he was still at Palermo.”