Italy’s last World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi says he’s seen plenty of great central defenders but none were as good as Matthijs de Ligt at his age.
The 19-year-old Dutch centre-back is expected to leave boyhood club Ajax this summer with Lippi’s former team Juventus among the favourites to sign him.
The strong pursuit to acquire his services has come off the back of another stellar campaign with the Dutch giants in which De Ligt played an instrumental role in their against-all-odds Champions League semi-final run and 34th Eredivisie triumph.
A graduate of Ajax’s illustrious academy, De Ligt is their youngest ever captain and his maturity has impressed many observers including Lippi, who feels his signing could ultimately lead to the European Cup returning to Turin after 24 years.
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“I believe that the player who would be the best signing for Juve would be De Ligt,” he told Tuttosport.
“I think he is really strong. He’s physically imposing and has great football intelligence, he gives you a good balance, is technically strong and also scores a lot of goals.
“There is no need for comparisons, but I’ve seen plenty of greats, like Alessandro Nesta, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Ciro Ferrara, Fabio Cannavaro, and Marco Materazzi. I’ve never seen anyone like that at his age.
“Juve with De Ligt would make a further leap in quality, putting him beside Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci would be the key to making a strong Juventus even stronger.
“They would be capable of achieving any target, even the Champions League.”
Five legendary centre-backs managed by Lippi. Five key things to know…
- Fabio Cannavaro (Napoli and Italy): The last defender to win the Ballon d’Or.
- Ciro Ferrara (Napoli and Juventus): Zbigniew Boniek described him as the best defender he ever faced.
- Paolo Montero (Juventus): Holds the record for most red cards received by a Serie A player (16).
- Laurent Blanc (Inter Milan): 1998 World Cup winner.
- Lilian Thuram (Juventus): Once the most expensive defender in football history.