‘De Ligt went to Italy to learn how to defend – but he’s not learned much’

Robin Bairner
Matthijs de Ligt

Matthijs de Ligt

Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt has come under fire from Netherlands legend Marco van Basten over his defensive capabilities.

De Ligt’s outstanding performances in the 2018/19 Champions League with Ajax saw him make a €75 million move to Juve, having been linked heavily to Manchester United previously.

However, he has struggled to live up to that price tag for much of his time in Italy, despite featuring alongside such wizened centre-backs as Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

Van Basten, though, claimed that De Ligt’s progress has not been sufficient, despite watching the centre-back help his side keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Austria at Euro 2020.

“De Ligt is a centre-back. He must give more leadership and be heard. He has to assert himself because he has to lead the defence,” the Euro 88 winner told Dutch TV station NOS.

De Ligt is a centre-back. He must give more leadership and be heard
- Marco van Basten

“He runs after his player, leaving huge holes. De Ligt went to Italy to learn how to defend, but I don’t think he learned much there.”

Van Basten has been a long-time critic of De Ligt.

In July 2020, he told Ziggo Sport: “I think he would have learned more at Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester City.”

De Ligt responds to Van Basten criticism

The 21-year-old responded to the criticism at a press conference on Friday.

“When someone like Van Basten criticises you, then you listen to him,” De Ligt, who missed the opening win over Ukraine with groin pain, said. “He played in Italy, just like me. He spoke about communication, which went well on Thursday but can always be improved. Even if things are going well, always try to improve.

“I understand what he says, but sometimes you have to make a decision in the space of a second. I want to improve myself every practice and every game. I won't be playing a perfect game again anytime soon, but I'm trying to achieve it.”

De Ligt played 36 times for Juventus during 2020/21 and is hopeful of playing for the Netherlands against North Macedonia as they complete their Euro 2020 group stage on Monday.