Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has quelled the overreaction following Matthijs de Ligt’s less than stellar Juventus debut.
The 20-year-old central defender made his first competitive appearance for the Bianconeri in their entertaining 4-3 win over Serie A rivals Napoli on Saturday, replacing Giorgio Chiellini who has sustained a serious knee injury.
De Ligt’s numbers v Napoli: Five key things to know…
- 54 touches.
- 96% passing accuracy.
- 5 clearances (most).
- 1 tackle attempted.
- 50% aerial duels won.
However, the former Ajax captain played a part in the Parthenopeans overturning a three goal deficit, most notably when Hirving Lozano registered Napoli’s second of the game, which lead to heavy criticism.
De Ligt, who sat out of Juve’s opener at Parma – which they won 1-0 courtesy of Chiellini – was among Europe’s most wanted footballers in the summer. The current Golden Boy recipient supposedly turned down advances from Barcelona and Man Utd for the undisputed Italian champions.
One reason De Ligt has previously cited for joining the Old Lady is due to their incredible history of developing centre-backs, and how much he could learn from the aforementioned Chiellini, as well as Leonardo Bonucci, who he partnered against Napoli.
And, as far as his national team boss Koeman is concerned, the fallout from De Ligt’s performance has been overblown as he shouldn’t have been fielded where Maurizio Sarri positioned him.
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“What is a shocker? It was also a question why he didn’t play the first match. Then he played because somebody else had an injury,” he told reporters.
“He didn’t play well. He had a bad moment with the goal of [Hirving] Lozano. The other two goals were different. It was a free-kick that turned in and that’s always hard to defend.
“But yes, he didn’t play the way we want to see. I spoke to Matthijs today after lunch.
“Sometime people take change too easily. I still have the newspapers of my first match at Barcelona. It was a disaster. We lost 2-0 and everybody was questioning my arrival.
“But if you asked them now about me I bet it’s different. So Matthijs is 20 years old. On the television they take changing to a new club very lightly.
“But I wouldn’t position him left in defence. I would have put Bonucci there. He is more experienced.”