Allow me to be the 1,000th person to use the same overused Twitter joke. But, man, Piemonte Calcio is going to be loaded next season.
With that out of the way, let’s go into detail to the main thesis of this piece. Matthijs de Ligt is the biggest signing of the decade for Juventus. Yes, even bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo.
*Hides behind an avalanche of enraged CR7 stans comments*
It is. It just is. Let’s break it down into incontrovertible facts:
- While Ronaldo gets the upper hand in fame and name recognition, he came in to reinforce what was already a stacked attacking front line. Hindsight is 20/20, I know, I know. But considering the results of the latest season, does it change a whole heck of a lot if Gonzalo Higuain remains as the striker instead of Ronaldo? Not really.
- de Ligt is coming in to reinforce a backline that desperately needed help. Last season, Juventus’ backline essentially consisted of: one excellent center back that is unfortunately old and injury prone (Giorgio Chiellini); a former excellent defender that was injured most of the season and ineffective when actually deployed who has since retired (Andrea Barzagli); a youngster who still hasn’t, and maybe never will, prove he belongs (Daniele Rugani); a stopgap that had exactly zero memorable moments in his third stint with the club (Martin Caceres) and a Leonardo Bonucci (Leonardo Bonucci). de Ligt immediately becomes the second best defender in the squad from day one and if he continues to develop, might even be the best by season’s end.
- With a €75 million price tag, de Ligt is cheaper than Ronaldo and if sold, god forbid, will almost assuredly net a huge profit with his reported release clause starting at €150 million.
- Let’s face it, there was never really a bidding war for Ronaldo. The only reason he became available was due to his general displeasure with the Real Madrid board and the fact he wanted to come to Juventus. It’s still a coup, but a blue moon set of circumstances. de Ligt was an honest to goodness bidding war, with pretty much every big European club thrown into the frenzy at one point or another. To sign Ronaldo, Juventus was competing with itself; to sign de Ligt, Juventus had to beat every major club in Europe. That matters.
With all of that being said, yes, it’s likely that Ronaldo being a Juve player was a factor in convincing de Ligt to don bianconero. How much of a factor? Who knows, but he had something to do with it. Without Ronaldo, there might not be a de Ligt. He is, overall, a better signing than Ronaldo. Both things can be true at once.
This is the third blockbuster signing in the past four years for Juventus, with Higuain and Ronaldo being the other two. Higuain was shocking due to the price tag and the release clause activation, Ronaldo was shocking because of who he is and de Ligt is shocking because … why exactly? Recent history shows that multimillion euro signings have become par of the course for Juventus.
And why wouldn’t de Ligt come and sign here? Is the situation at Barcelona, PSG, Real Madrid or Manchester City particularly better or worse than Juventus? Not really. Was the money significantly more or less? Again, no.
Ever since Juventus won the first Scudetto of the decade and started getting consistent participation in European competition again, we have never really belonged. Sure, Juve was not second tier precisely, but we were never quite there with the “giants” of Europe, either. The Berlin final was a huge upset, happy-to-be-there kind of team. The Cardiff final was disappointing, but Real Madrid was always going to be favored. We didn’t have the money, the players, or the sponsorships compared to those two opponents. Juve had to be savvy — getting free players, thrifty deals here and there, betting big on youngsters in the hope of getting a true superstar. Juventus was very much stuck in that 1B tier and despite a total and complete hegemony domestically; we walked in as underdogs to big games far more often than you would think.
The Higuain signing was the prelude, Ronaldo was the arrival and de Ligt is the confirmation. Juventus is a true European giant again in every single shape, way or form. The financial strength to go along with the smart decision making to go toe to toe with anyone. Elite players in every line, overwhelming favorites to win everything domestically and one of a handful of actual contenders to lift European silverware.
That sentence could always apply to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. Now, it also applies to us.
Juve is back.