Matthijs de Ligt believes he is starting to settle at Juventus after struggling with handballs at first. “It’s like there was a magnet in my arm!”
De Ligt was linked with the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United before he joined Juve last summer, and he explained why he chose the Bianconeri.
“Last season I played for Ajax and won the Golden Boy [award], and it was here in Turin where I collected it,” he told teammate Wojciech Szczesny in an interview with YouTube channel Foot Truck.
“That was the first time I travelled with my girlfriend to another place. Before I [signed] here, we already completed Turin.
“Of course, I had a lot of time to choose between the clubs I could join and, when I put everything on paper, Juventus were the best choice for me. Ronaldo did speak to me and obviously it was a big honour!
“Juventus told me ‘the reason we want to buy you is because you’re already mature and you know how to handle pressure.’
“They also said to me it was difficult for a 19-year-old to go to another country, but ‘we have confidence in you and you’ll find your place soon.’
“When I went into the dressing room for the first time, I was like a kid in a sweet shop! After two months, I felt like I could be myself more.”
Maurizio Sarri is considered the most continental Italian coach, so has the Dutchman seen any similarities between him and his Ajax coach Erik ten Hag?
“There are similarities, of course, [but] an Italian coach is always different to a Dutch coach.
“I think here it’s more predicted, you know how to apply pressure, you know how to build up.
“At Ajax you knew how to apply pressure, but with the ball you could just play, anything you want.
“For example at Ajax, if you were a defender you would defend but you would also try to score a goal.
“After training, here it’s not possible that a defender goes trying to shoot, but there it’s normal. The defenders attack and the attackers defend, everyone’s together.”
The Old Lady splashed out €75m to sign the 19-year-old, but he quickly developed a reputation for handballing.
“The only thing difficult at the beginning was there were already a lot of eyes on me. In my second game, I scored an own goal.
“Then there’s even more pressure, but I knew in training I felt good. In games there was still a bit of adaptation. At the beginning it was difficult, but step by step I improved.
“First of all I came to the club late because there were problems between Ajax and Juventus.
“I went straight to Asia and didn’t even train once. I had to play two days later, against Tottenham, and after 20 minutes I couldn’t breathe.
“Also we play more zonal and I was playing man-to-man at first. I had to get used to this, when to press and when to move backwards, so that was a little different. I’m a player who wants to win and give an example to other players.
“I remember going to the showers and people were saying it’s unbelievable. It’s like there was a magnet in my arm!
“The best situation to explain my bad luck was the penalty I conceded against Germany. The ball dropped, I looked up and all of a sudden I saw it hit my arm.
“When I know I make a mistake or handball, I’m not just the kind of guy who gets upset if someone says something. I like to make a joke about it.”
De Ligt has the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Virgil van Dijk for defensive role models, so to what degree does he use them?
“You talk a lot to them about they see situations and defend in situations, what they would do in them. You also look at how calm they are.
“You try to pick some attributes from them to improve your own game, but in the end I think the most important thing is to observe them but not change your own style of play.
“I think every player has their own style, so I just try to see things I can improve on.”