Stick or Twist is back for another edition and places the power firmly in your hands. This week, we look at Juventus and Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt whose reputation preceded him during his Ajax days. The rising young talent was tipped to become the next big thing but has struggled to make the desired impact in Turin raising question marks about the Dutchman’s future.
Each week, we’ll analyse the performance of a player or manager during the 2019/20 season before throwing it over to you, the audience, to decide whether you would ‘stick’ with them or ‘twist’ in favour of an alternative and if so, who and why? Head to our Twitter (@Eurosport_UK) and leave your comments as we consider if Juventus is the right place for de Ligt to continue his development.
Having come through the ranks at Ajax, the 20-year-old established himself as a household name in his homeland. De Ligt was making and breaking records across the board at domestic and international levels. He played 204 matches for Ajax during his time at the club where be became the youngest player to captain them. On the European stage, de Ligt was the youngest captain in the knockout stages of the Champions League at 19 years and 186 days. For his country, he was the youngest debutant since 1945. The centre-back was writing his way into the history books and capturing the attention of football’s elite in the process. After much speculation, it was Juventus who won the race for his signature which would see him team up with some of the world’s most established in his position such as Giorgio Chiellini. With players such as this to learn from, the ‘boy wonder’ from Holland was in a prime position to develop alongside some of the world’s best.
It’s early days and there is a lot of expectation on a player who has set the bar so high while still learning the trade. His CV is glowing for a player of his age, but Serie A poses very different challenges to that of the Eredivisie. The expectations are greater and so is the competition for places. Apart from being competition, they are also a source of education for the youngster. Juventus are dominant on the ball, meaning their defenders need to be comfortable in possession and assured when playing out from the back. They need to be consistent and confident in their own ability. De Ligt is experiencing a steep learning curve as he tries to adapt to a different club, division and environment. He has several of the characteristics needed to reach his full potential at the Italian giants. Inconsistency is natural for young players, but the beauty is that time is very much on his side. There will be several lessons awaiting him that will test whether he is physically and mentally strong enough to succeed.
In terms of physicality, de Ligt is well-built with good stature and a presence which is important for commanding centre-halves. He may not be the quickest along the ground but those who are not blessed with natural pace often make up for this with their intelligence and reading of the play. In Serie A, there is no hiding place up against bullish, relenting strikers such as Romelu Lukaku at Inter Milan or Ciro Immobile of Lazio. Undoubtedly, de Ligt is facing a different calibre than what he has been used to previously and he is left with no choice but to adapt on the job. This is part of the learning process. Game time and chances to test himself against these types of attacking players are the best way for him to develop and become accustomed to his new surroundings. However, rumours have already started to do the rounds which suggest that his career with Juventus might be over before it has really begun. Could de Ligt be wondering whether he made the right decision?
A large part of making it to the top is having the right mentality, something which is even more important as a young player. He has ridden a wave of success early in his career and captured the headlines for the right reasons. He has passed the first test but there are many more to come and playing at the highest level will bring its own unique challenges. You need drive, determination and resilience to compete with the best players around you and to live up to the standards set by those who have gone before. Juventus have a tremendously rich history filled with iconic figures who paved the way for the next generation of talent. A winning mentality and strength of character are vital for earning your place but also for keeping it over a sustained period. If the Dutchman wants to fight for his shirt and become a Juventus great, the writer believes he has the resources to achieve this. The baton is there for de Ligt but only he can decide whether he wants to pick it up and carry it forward.
Have Your Say
Now it’s time for you to get involved! Head to our Twitter page and give us your thoughts on the ultimate question. Would you ‘stick’ with De Ligt or would you ‘twist’ in favour of an alternative and if so, who would you choose and why?