Last season was supposed to be the year that Juventus made a serious bid for the Champions League. By last summer, the Torinese giants had secured seven consecutive league titles and strengthened even further with the surprise signing of Cristiano Ronaldo (£2.68) from Real Madrid. Nothing else could have sent a clearer signal that the Bianconeri meant business, however when it came down to the crunch, they ultimately failed despite adding yet another league trophy to their collection.
It was not one of the traditional big European sides that sent Juve crashing out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage, but a young and spirited Ajax team, one that seemed much more prepared and hungry than their stagnant opponents. It was for this very reason that owner Andrea Agnelli decided to go forth without Coach Max Allegri, appointing former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri in his place.
After they saw the talent of Ajax up close last term, it is no shock that Juventus have been keep to capture one of the Dutch side’s brightest stars in Matthijs De Ligt (£2.78) this summer. They have faced stern competition in the transfer market from PSG and Barcelona, but Italian football transfer market expert Gianluca Di Marzio now reports that the 19-year-old has agreed personal terms with the Serie A champions.
That contract is said to include a basic wage of just over £7 million, with bonuses potentially taking that figure to almost £11 million, with a release clause worth £135 million key to the deal. Ajax themselves would reportedly earn upwards of £60 million for the player, but the finer details are still to be ironed out between the two clubs.
It’s true that Juventus have a history of talented Italian defenders in their side, but with the “BBC” trio of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini now missing the former after he retired this summer, it’s time for them to think about rebuilding their backline. On too many occasions last season an injury to the latter duo caused an emergency in defence, as Daniele Rugani has proven time and time again that he is not suitable for the rigors of football at the highest level.
This left Juve looking uncharacteristically vulnerable and exposed at the back last term, yet the addition of De Ligt would solve that problem in one fell swoop. Keeping Rugani on board for the less taxing matches versus lesser sides in Serie A would allow Juve to rotate between Bonucci, Chiellini and the incoming Dutchman in high-stakes matches.
“I really like Chiellini, as he is one of the best defenders in the world,” the youngster told Tuttosport back in March. “I also appreciate Bonucci, so between them they are among the best centre-backs in Europe.
“For a young player like me, they are both examples to be inspired by. I am pleased with comparisons to Alessandro Nesta and Jaap Stam, as they were top players, but I have a long way to go in order to reach their level.
“Nesta was a fantastic defender and I also watch videos of Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini. The Italian school of defending was always the best.”
Comments such as these clearly give a hint as to how De Ligt sees his potential new teammates, and how willing he would be to learn from them. Of course, there is also the added attraction of playing with Ronaldo, especially as the centre-back has confirmed that CR7 personally encouraged him to move to Juventus after the Nations League Final between Portugal and the Netherlands at the beginning of June.
De Ligt may be a Dutchman, but if this move goes through, he could be about to be shaped into the Italian mould.