Football Features

Squawka Scout: who is Matthijs de Ligt?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 12:53, 27 March 2019

The Netherlands and Ajax renaissances have been built on a surprisingly solid defence and one man has been essential to both: Matthijs de Ligt.

The 6’2 defender has been at Ajax since the age of 11 and made his debut back in 2016/17, ending with him becoming the youngest ever player to feature in a European final. Since then he has gone from strength to strength and is now a regular for club and country.

De Ligt debuted for the Netherlands back in 2017 but has really excelled under Ronald Koeman, becoming an ever-present who was key to the Dutch topping their UEFA Nations League group and qualifying for the semi-finals this summer. He has become a player much in demand and it’s highly likely that he ends up leaving Ajax this summer. Would you like to know more?

What position does Matthijs de Ligt play?

Matthijs de Ligt is a centre-back. Nothing too complicated here, he plays on the right side of the defence and patrols that area with incredible composure and command. His skill-set and ability with the ball means that he could play centre-back in a back four or a back three.

What clubs want to sign Matthijs de Ligt?

It would be easier to list the sides that don’t want De Ligt. Literally every club in the world could do with adding De Ligt to their ranks, but the main team linked with signing the Dutch defender is Barcelona. The Blaugrana have already signed De Ligt’s club-mate, compatriot and friend Frenkie de Jong, and want to get De Ligt on-board to be the long-term successor to Gerard Piqué.

“His name is on the table,” said Bartomeu of De Ligt – but if Barcelona want to snare him they will have to fight off competition from other European giants. Liverpool have been linked with De Ligt and already have his national team defensive partner Virgil van Dijk ready to convince the youngster to join him at Anfield.

Aside from those two teams there’s also Bayern Munich, Juventus, Manchester United and PSG that have been linked with him. For his part, De Ligt has said: “I play my game, focus on football and we’ll see where I end up.”

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Which Premier League player is Matthijs de Ligt like?

The one defender that most closely resembles Matthijs de Ligt in terms of confidence, skill and capability is Virgil van Dijk, his partner for the Netherlands. De Ligt is tall and wide-shouldered like Van Dijk and plays with the same sense of serenity that he does. He doesn’t quite have Van Dijk’s pace, but he’s not slow either and has enough recovery pace to handle all but the quicksilver forwards.

De Ligt’s great strength is his reading of the game, which is on the kind of level that is well beyond his age and more comparable to someone like the 27-year-old Van Dijk. Teenage defenders don’t usually have that kind of composure, but De Ligt is absolutely fearless and rarely gets dominated on the big stage, handling opponents as grand as Real Madrid and the World Champions France. He dominates in the air and on the deck and there seems no phasing him.

How much is Matthijs de Ligt worth?

Matthijs de Ligt is not going to be a cheap get for any side that wants to get him. His rumoured price-tag is around £64m to £70m. A colossal fee although amusingly it would not make De Ligt the most expensive teenager in the world (still Kylian Mbappé’s £124m) nor would he be the most expensive Dutch player nor centre-back (both Virgil van Dijk who cost Liverpool £75m). He wouldn’t even be the the most expensive sale in Ajax’s history, which would be Frenkie de Jong – also to Barcelona.

When does Matthijs de Ligt’s contract end?

Matthijs de Ligt signed a contract extension in October 2017 and that is set to end in June 2021; this was his second contract renewal after signing one in December 2016 that expired in 2019. So any chance of him sitting out his contract is null and void and that two years or breathing room is why Ajax are going to make a lot of money in the summer when Matthijs de Ligt leaves.