Matthijs de Ligt is at Juventus to win, but the 20-year-old is quite self-aware. He knows he’s also at Juventus to become a better player.
“I was told: ‘You are a great player, but above all learn from these lads. We need you this season,’” de Ligt told Dutch website Ziggo Sport in an interview.
De Ligt, who joined Juventus this past summer from Dutch side Ajax, was immediately thrown to the wolves thanks to an ACL injury to Juventus legend Giorgio Chiellini just minutes into the season. The young defender has struggled at times this season with defensive errors resulting in occasional fan backlash, but he is soaking in the opportunity to grow, particularly with the presence of Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
“There are more eyes on you and people expect a great deal, all of which is new compared to my time at Ajax,” De Ligt said. “Bonucci and Chiellini are just players, but they are players who won everything for nine years and know what it’s all about.”
There were early bumps in the road, but the Dutchman feels he is already beginning to see improvements in his performances.
“I think that I’ve done well in every match since the start of November and I am happy that the club has faith in me,” de Ligt said. “I was on the bench for a little while and talked it over with the coach. I then had that problem with my shoulder and then a groin strain, so I couldn’t train. The coach told me very clearly: ‘Calm down, we need you further along in the season and in your best shape, so there’s no rush.’”
De Ligt spoke of the language barrier being a serious hindrance to his early development, but he developed a friendship with fellow new arrival Aaron Ramsey thanks to their mutual grasp of English, and eventually he was able to learn Italian and become more settled in the squad.
Since Chiellini’s return, Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri has rotated the center-backs heavily, with de Ligt, Chiellini, Bonucci, and Daniele Rugani all seeing time in league play. Juve has not seen the field since February 22 thanks to coronavirus fears causing recent postponement of play in Serie A.