How is he just 19?
For many fans visiting the Johan Cruyff Arena for the first time they’ll see a defender standing at around 1.88m tall bellowing at his team mates and at first thought you would probably think this man has been doing it for years. Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar agrees saying “He looks like he has been doing this for six or seven years.” Rightly so, as he has already been part of an Ajax team to have reached the Europa League final, been a first-team regular and now partnering alongside Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk for the national team ahead of the semi final’s for the UEFA Nations League. Thus proving why he is one of Europe’s most coveted stars and having a staggering £44m increase in his market value over a year.
What makes him so special?
At just 19 years of age he is incredibly strong and has built a physique that is similar to that of a 24 year old player according to Edwin van der Sar. This has allowed him to make countless amount of recoveries and cover for his defensive partners. Modern day football requires defenders to be comfortable playing out from the back and for the Dutchman it is something he has become a master of already. In comparison to Europe’s elite defenders he has a higher passing accuracy (91%) than that of Virgil Van Dijk (89%) and Kalidou Koulibaly (88%). Furthermore, he has a tackles win rate of ”75%”, which is better than both Van Dijk (74%) and Koulibaly (64%). A young defender achieving 1.7 tackles per game in the UEFA Champions League is nothing short of remarkable.
Can he improve?
De Ligt is a player who has that confidence in him to drive with the ball in to the opposition’s half and that can sometimes leave his team exposed however with age will come experience in different formats and a development of spatial awareness. The early signs are promising nevertheless.L
“Matthijs is one of those who makes the difference in the locker room,” team-mate Max Wober revealed. “Just before a match, he takes to the floor and makes sure everyone is super sharp and wants to go all in.” Another example of his exceptional leadership was when team mate Frenkie De Jong was moved back to play beside him in 2017 and he helped make the transition as smooth as possible for his friend. Recently, he became the youngest player to captain a team in a Champions League knockout game after taking his team past holders Real Madrid in scintillating fashion.
Will he be on the move soon?
Ajax FC have been known to develop talent through their academies and sell them at a profit as represented in previous years by the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen. The European giants have all expressed their interest and the player himself has recently stated that he wouldn’t mind playing alongside international team mate Van Dijk on Merseyside. The summer could be an interesting one for the young Dutchman as he looks to take a new path in what is destined to be a long, successful career.