Matthijs de Ligt joined Juventus from Ajax as not only one of Europe’s most sought-after players, but having, at the age of 17, become the youngest player to start for the Netherlands since 1931, and at 17 years and 285 days become the youngest ever to feature in a major European final – Ajax’s Europa League defeat by Manchester United in 2017. He made his senior debut at 16 in a 5-0 victory over Willem II, in which he became the club’s second youngest goalscorer after Clarence Seedorf, and is widely expected to become the leader of a new defence for so long so impressively inspired by Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon.
If he sometimes struggled during his first season in Serie A, Ronald Koeman, one of the finest defenders the Netherlands has produced and his manager at international level during that first season, remains convinced it is only a matter of time before he again performs to his considerable potential. “Sometime people take change too easily,” he said. “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.”