Juventus continue to revamp an ageing squad this summer by bringing in one of the best young players in the game, and today unveiled Matthijs de Ligt in his introductory press conference.
The first question the 19-year-old was asked was regarding his age, and how he is already highly-regarded despite playing a position that youngsters sometimes take years to mature into.
“I played three years for Ajax and got a lot of minutes on the pitch last season, so I think I’ve got a lot of experience for a 19-year-old, but that’s why I made this step, to get more experience and learn from these players because compared to them, I’m just starting out, so hopefully I can get in front of them.
“It’s a really big step, the first step outside my home country, so it’s something I have to get used to, but I was really honoured by how the Juventus fans welcomed me. I was really proud of that and I hope I can give them a lot back.
“At the time I was still figuring out what I wanted to do and which club I wanted to join after the summer. I already had an idea which one it was, but I always said to Mino [Raiola] I’d decide after the Nations League.”
Much has been made of Cristiano Ronaldo’s comments to de Ligt to join Juve, but the defender insisted he had already made up his mind.
“I was pretty sure it was Juventus but obviously it was nice that Cristiano Ronaldo asked me if I wanted to join Juve. It was a big compliment, but it wasn’t the difference in me joining or not.
“For me, it was very important to take such a step outside my home country and Ajax.
“I know I look calm and that lots of people are happy I’ve joined Juve, but there have been other reactions too, so I have to get used to this environment and new sporting culture, and I truly hope I can do the best with my performances.”
While a large proportion of the Juventus fanbase haven’t been thrilled with the appointment of Maurizio Sarri as manager, de Ligt insisted it was a big factor for him joining the Bianconeri.
“I spoke to Sarri on the phone very quickly to get to know him, nothing more. He’s also one of the reasons I wanted to come to Juve because I heard lots of good stories about him – the way he plays, the philosophy he has, the attacking football, how he prepares the defensive line – so he was a big reason.”
de Ligt revealed that he had been a Juventus supporter growing up, and greatly admired one of the best defenders in the game to have pulled on the black and white stripes.
“I was a really big fan of him, but I obviously always had a good feeling about Juve. They’re a big club, a great club, so I was fan of them when I was young.
“When I played here with Ajax in the Champions League, I was stunned by the fans. Even when it was 1-2, they created an incredible atmosphere and really supported the team.
“For me, it’s going to be a big challenge to play for them and I will give my all for them. It’s a really great stadium and close to the pitch, so every sound you hear is really loud. It’s an incredible stadium with great fans.
“There are three competitions we’ll be playing in, maybe four with the Super Cup. We want to win everything, that’s the most important thing, and it won’t be any different this year.”
He also talked a bit about what drove his decision to join Juve.
“It was a long process [coming here], I was just looking at what was good for me. Italy is the country of defending, the country that loves defending the most.
“If you talk about Italian players, the ones that come up the most are defenders, but for me it was a big challenge, to take a new step. They showed me a lot of confidence and really wanted me.
“I was really proud to join this club. There were several reasons why, but in the end it was the feeling that made the difference.”
On how he thinks he’ll adapt to the Italian game, and the differences between here and Netherlands.
“I think we have a lot of different types of strikers. Every type has their own qualities, so I don’t think these attackers are easy to play against. It’s going to be a big challenge for me and I can learn from them every day.
“I think in Netherlands it’s all about building up from the back and defending high, while in Italy there’s more zonal marking and defending together.
“I think I can help them and they can help me. That’s the great combination between Juventus and I.
“I’m coming to Juve and still only 19 so I think I have a lot of room to improve. There are some differences between Ajax and Juve, but in the end it’s important to work every day and show I want to learn. I think I can improve all the attributes I have, so I hope to become a better player.”
How does he feel he’ll handle the pressure of becoming the most expensive defender to move to Italy?
“Pressure is normal in football and of course, when a club buys you for a big amount of money, there’s a lot of pressure, but pressure is normal in football. I think pressure is the most important thing and if you want to be a good player, you have to deal with it.
“It’s not a big deal for me. I’ll just play my game, work hard and show it on the pitch. In the end, everyone will see how I deal with it, but it’s not going to be a problem.”
de Ligt will be wearing the #4 jersey, and his decision was inspired by Cannavaroamong others.
“The No 4 for me is a special number because I always wore it for Ajax. At Juve, the number was free and I heard a lot of good stories about it from the past, so there’s some legacy for me to fulfil, but I’m really proud to wear it and I hope I can achieve a lot here.
“At Ajax we had a lot of young players and some experienced guys, but here the players are older and a lot more experienced. I hope to learn from guys like Buffon, Chiellini, Ronaldo and make my game better.
“For me, the most important thing is to adapt. As a player you want to play, so I have to show it in training and then we’ll see who plays.”
Welcome to Juventus, de Ligt!