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Matthijs de Ligt

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Matthijs de Ligt
De Ligt with Bayern Munich in 2022
Personal information
Full name Matthijs de Ligt[1]
Date of birth (1999-08-12) 12 August 1999 (age 24)[2]
Place of birth Leiderdorp, Netherlands
Height 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)[2]
Position(s) Centre-back
Team information
Current team
Bayern Munich
Number 4
Youth career
2005–2009 Abcoude
2009–2016 Ajax
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2016–2017 Jong Ajax 17 (1)
2016–2019 Ajax 77 (8)
2019–2022 Juventus 87 (8)
2022– Bayern Munich 53 (5)
International career
2014–2015 Netherlands U15 5 (0)
2014–2015 Netherlands U16 8 (0)
2015–2016 Netherlands U17 14 (1)
2016 Netherlands U19 6 (0)
2017– Netherlands 45 (2)
Medal record
Men's football
Representing  Netherlands
UEFA Nations League
Runner-up 2019 Portugal
*Club domestic league appearances and goals, correct as of 20:13, 18 May 2024 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals, correct as of 21:56, 26 June 2024 (UTC)

Matthijs de Ligt (born 12 August 1999) is a Dutch professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for Bayern Munich and the Netherlands national team. Considered the best defender in the world, De Ligt is known for his strength, leadership, aggressiveness, tackling and aerial ability.[3][4][5]

De Ligt made his debut for Ajax's senior team in September 2016 in a cup game against Willem II. He scored from a corner after 25 minutes, making him the club's second-youngest goalscorer ever behind Clarence Seedorf.[6] On 24 May 2017, De Ligt became the youngest ever player (aged 17 years and 285 days) to appear in a major European final when he started against Manchester United in the Europa League final.[7] In December 2018, he won the Golden Boy award given to the year's best footballer in Europe under the age of 21, becoming the first defender to do so.[8] The following season, De Ligt helped Ajax capture a domestic double and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.

De Ligt's performances earned him a move to Serie A club Juventus in 2019, shortly before being awarded the Kopa Trophy for world's best under-21 player of the year. He would go on to help the Turin side retain the league title in his first season and reclaim the Italian Cup in his second. After three years in Italy, De Ligt would then join Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in 2022, again capturing a league title in his inaugural campaign.

In 2017, De Ligt made his debut for the Netherlands at the age of 17, making him the youngest player to start for the national team since 1931.[9] He featured for the side at UEFA Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Club career[edit]

Ajax[edit]

De Ligt in training with Ajax in 2016

De Ligt joined the Ajax youth academy when he was nine years old from his local club in Abcoude, just outside of Amsterdam. At first, the coaches at the youth academy thought he was too slow and out of shape, but he was given a chance to develop in the academy and went on to prove his quality.[10]

2014–15: Jong Ajax and development[edit]

He made his debut for Jong Ajax on 8 August 2014 in an Eerste Divisie game against FC Emmen, playing the full game.[11] During the season, De Ligt played in 17 matches for Jong Ajax.[12]

On 21 September, De Ligt made his debut for Ajax's senior team in a cup game against Willem II. He scored from a corner after 25 minutes, making him the second-youngest goalscorer ever behind Clarence Seedorf; Ajax won the game 5–0.[6] On 24 October, Ajax announced through Twitter that De Ligt had been promoted to the senior squad.[13]

De Ligt quickly established himself in the first team after being promoted and went on to play in 11 league matches and nine in the Europa League.[14] On 24 May, he became the youngest player ever (17 years and 285 days old) to play in a major European final when he started against Manchester United in the 2017 UEFA Europa League Final.[7]

2017–19: Breakthrough and captaincy[edit]

De Ligt in training with Ajax in 2018

After the sale of Davinson Sánchez to Tottenham Hotspur in August 2017, De Ligt became a first-team starter. He was named the youngest captain of Ajax in March 2018 after injury to club captain Joël Veltman.[15]

De Ligt appeared in 37 matches in all competitions and scored three goals. He started in all of his 31 league matches and played 90 minutes in all but one of them (he was substituted in the 33rd minute against SBV Vitesse due to an injury).[14] Due to De Ligt's performances for Ajax, he was linked with many of Europe's top clubs.[16]

On 17 December 2018, De Ligt won the Golden Boy award, becoming the first defender to win the award.[8] On 13 February 2019, De Ligt became the youngest ever captain in a Champions League knockout game at 19 years and 186 days old, in a game against Real Madrid.[17] On 27 February 2019, he played his 100th official game for Ajax in a 0–3 Klassieker win against Feyenoord in the Dutch national cup, becoming the youngest Ajax player ever to reach this milestone.[18]

On 16 April 2019, De Ligt scored the winning goal in the Champions League quarter-final against Juventus to send Ajax on to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since the 1996–97 edition of the tournament.[19][20] His goal also saw him become the youngest Dutch player to score in the knockout stages since Nordin Wooter in 1996 and the second-youngest ever defender to score after Joël Matip.[21]

Juventus[edit]

De Ligt playing for Juventus in 2019

On 18 July 2019, De Ligt signed for Serie A champions Juventus on a five-year contract for a fee of €75 million, to be paid in five annual installments, with additional costs of €10.5 million.[22] He made his official debut for the club in a 4–3 home win over Napoli in Serie A on 31 August.[23] On 3 November, he scored his first for the club in a 1–0 away win over cross-city rivals Torino in the Derby della Mole.[24][25]

Bayern Munich[edit]

On 19 July 2022, De Ligt signed for Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich on five-year contract for a reported initial fee of €67 million, potentially rising to €77 million in add-ons.[26][27] On 21 August, he scored his first Bundesliga goal in a 7–0 away win over Bochum.[28]

On 8 March 2023, at the Champions League round of 16 second leg, he made a goal-line clearance against Paris Saint-Germain, after goalkeeper Yann Sommer lost the ball under pressure, to keep the goalless draw and scoreline at 1–0 on aggregate.[29][30] The match ended in a 2–0 victory and qualification to the quarter-final.[31] On 8 April, he scored the only goal from 25 yards (23 m) in a 1–0 away win over Freiburg, four days after a 2–1 defeat against the same opponent in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals.[32] That strike was voted Bayern's goal of the month in the Bundesliga.[33] He was also voted player of the month in both March and April.[34]

In the first half of the 2023–24 season, he sustained recurring injuries in his right knee, which led to him being surpassed by Dayot Upamecano and Kim Min-jae in the starting lineup under coach Thomas Tuchel.[35][36] During the latter part of the season, de Ligt forged a robust partnership with newly acquired Eric Dier, contributing significantly to the club's advancement in the Champions League.[37]

In the 2024 summer transfer window, De Ligt attracted substantial interest from several top European clubs, particularly Manchester United. On 9 July 2024, it was reported that De Ligt had agreed personal terms with the Manchester side and a transfer looked likely.[38]

International career[edit]

On 25 March 2017, De Ligt made his debut for the Netherlands national team in a 2–0 away defeat to Bulgaria during 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification. At the age of 17, he became the youngest player to start for the national team since 1931.[9] He was sent off in his second appearance – a 2–1 friendly win over Morocco on 17 May.[39]

During the group stage of the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League, De Ligt started and played 90 minutes in all four matches against Germany and France.

On 24 March 2019, De Ligt scored his first goal for the Netherlands in a 3–2 loss to Germany during UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying.[40]

In May 2019, De Ligt was named in the Netherlands' squad for the inaugural Nations League Finals.[41] On 5 June 2019, he scored a header in a 3–1 win against England at the semi-final stage.[42] Four days later, he started alongside captain Virgil van Dijk in central defence as the Netherlands were defeated 1–0 by hosts Portugal in the final.[43]

De Ligt was a member of the Netherlands' squad for UEFA Euro 2020. After missing the team's opening match against Ukraine, he made his tournament debut against Austria on 17 June 2021.[44] He was sent off for handball in the Netherlands' 2–0 loss to the Czech Republic at the round of 16 stage on 27 June.[45]

On 14 June 2022, De Ligt captained the Netherlands for the first time in a 3–2 win over Wales in the 2022–23 UEFA Nations League.[46]

In November 2022, he was named in the Dutch squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where he started the team's opening match against Senegal and appeared as a substitute in a 3–1 win over the United States in the round of 16.[47]

After being initially named in the Netherlands' squad for the 2023 UEFA Nations League Finals, De Ligt was forced to withdraw due to a calf injury and was replaced by Daley Blind.[48]

On 29 May 2024, De Ligt was named in the Netherlands' squad for UEFA Euro 2024.[49]

Style of play[edit]

De Ligt is considered by pundits to be among the most highly regarded young prospects in world football, as demonstrated by his victory in the 2018 Golden Boy award, which is assigned to the most impressive young player in European football.[50][51]

Having played as an attacking-midfielder in his youth,[52] De Ligt is both a physical and technically gifted right-footed centre-back,[53][54] who is known for his clean tackling, anticipation, marking, height, strength, speed and accurate passing, which enables him to start attacking plays from the back. His height allows him to be a major threat from set pieces, while his strength means that he is unlikely to be pushed off the ball, particularly in aerial duels.[54][55][56][57] His playing style is often compared to that of Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué;[58][59] he has also been likened to Jan Vertonghen, due to his "similar forward surges, a propensity to create an extra man in midfield, and calmness on the ball," and to compatriot Ronald Koeman, courtesy of his "powerful shot and body strength."[60]

A 2019 UEFA.com profile described De Ligt as a "natural leader [who] is an elegant two-footed central defender. Dominant in the air, he is blessed with strength, fine distribution and composure, and is able to play out from the back thanks to his confidence in possession, while his intelligent positioning helps him deny pacy forwards. With his ability to read the game, he could even play in midfield. His leadership also stands him out: he was 18 when he was made Ajax skipper."[60] That same year, Paul Wilkes of The Independent wrote that "De Ligt's ability to play out from the back and organise his fellow teammates are valuable commodities in a time when the lack of quality defenders has been highlighted."[61]

Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher praised De Ligt for his "physical attributes" and "leadership qualities". Carragher also said he plays "like he's 24 or 25" indicating maturity and strength.[62][63][64] Of De Ligt, former Netherlands centre-back Jaap Stam said: "He's got composure on the ball, he's aggressive tactically, he sees the game, he reads the game well and he's got that driving force for himself as well in what you need to achieve and where you want to go to."[60] Upon signing with Juventus, Marcello Lippi, one of the club's former managers, said of the defender's precocious performances: "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."[60]

In 2019, Giacomo Chiuchiolo described De Ligt as a "complete" and talented young defender, saying that although he is not exceptionally quick, he possesses excellent positioning and an ability to read the game, among his other technical and physical qualities.[65] Despite his talent, he has at times come under criticism in the media for being inconsistent due to his tendency to commit occasional lapses or errors. In October 2019, his Juventus defensive teammate Leonardo Bonucci said he believes that De Ligt will overcome these weaknesses with time, as he matures and gains more experience with age, and successfully adapts to the team's new defensive strategy under manager Maurizio Sarri, who uses a zonal marking system rather than man-to-man marking.[66]

Personal life[edit]

De Ligt is in a relationship with Dutch model Annekee Molenaar, daughter of Keje Molenaar.[67] On June 7, 2024, after six years together, the couple got married.[68]

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

As of match played 18 May 2024[69]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National cup[a] Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Jong Ajax 2016–17 Eerste Divisie 17 1 17 1
Ajax 2016–17 Eredivisie 11 2 3 1 9[b] 0 23 3
2017–18 Eredivisie 33 3 2 0 4[c] 0 39 3
2018–19 Eredivisie 33 3 5 1 17[d] 3 55 7
Total 77 8 10 2 30 3 0 0 117 13
Juventus 2019–20 Serie A 29 4 4 0 6[d] 0 0 0 39 4
2020–21 Serie A 27 1 4 0 5[d] 0 0 0 36 1
2021–22 Serie A 31 3 4 0 7[d] 0 0 0 42 3
Total 87 8 12 0 18 0 0 0 117 8
Bayern Munich 2022–23 Bundesliga 31 3 4 0 7[d] 0 1[e] 0 43 3
2023–24 Bundesliga 22 2 1 0 6[d] 0 1[e] 0 30 2
Total 53 5 5 0 13 0 2 0 73 5
Career total 234 21 28 2 60 3 2 0 324 26
  1. ^ Includes KNVB Cup, Coppa Italia, DFB-Pokal
  2. ^ Appearances in UEFA Europa League
  3. ^ Two appearances in UEFA Champions League, two appearances in UEFA Europa League
  4. ^ a b c d e f Appearances in UEFA Champions League
  5. ^ a b Appearance in DFL-Supercup

International[edit]

As of match played 6 June 2024[70]
Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Netherlands 2017 3 0
2018 10 0
2019 10 2
2021 10 0
2022 7 0
2023 3 0
2024 2 0
Total 45 2
As of match played 6 June 2024
Scores and results list the Netherlands' goal tally first, score column indicates score after each De Ligt goal.[70]
List of international goals scored by Matthijs de Ligt
No. Date Venue Cap Opponent Score Result Competition Ref.
1 24 March 2019 Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands 15  Germany 1–2 2–3 UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying [71]
2 6 June 2019 Estádio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimarães, Portugal 16  England 1–1 3–1 (a.e.t.) 2019 UEFA Nations League Finals [72]

Honours[edit]

Ajax

Juventus

Bayern Munich

Netherlands

Individual

References[edit]

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External links[edit]