‘At Barcelona De Ligt would not have improved as a defender’

Picture via Proshots

Matthijs de Ligt has made the correct decision to join Juventus ahead of agreeing a transfer to FC Barcelona, says Michele Santoni, former Ajax video analyst. Juventus is considered as the best fit for the young defender, as the Italian league is widely considered to be the best defensive league in the world, whilst he can learn from defenders like Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

The 2019 Golden Boy winner was one of the hottest players on the transfer market last summer with many European giants chasing him. Barcelona was one of these giants and the Blaugrana have talked to the defender before he decided to join Juventus. The Italians eventually paid Ajax €75m for De Ligt.

“When it comes to details [Maurizio] Sarri is king”, Santoni told Voetbal International. “As a defender, he couldn’t have made a better step. Just look at the development of Stefan de Vrij. If you want to learn how to defend better, you have to be in Italy. I have no doubts about that.”

“Look, Barcelona is always calling in the Netherlands. Every top Dutch player has to go to Barcelona. That link is so easy to make, due to Johan Cruyff and the Dutch influences there. But football in Italy is changing. It used to be more strategic with a lot of 0-0s, but now it is really enjoyable in some games.”

“Look at Atalanta, look at Inter with [Christian] Eriksen, [Lautaro] Martinez and [Romelu] Lukaku. You cannot say that is defensive. I think we need five seasons of super fun football before the stereotype that Italian football is boring disappears. That was an extra prejudice that De Ligt faced. In the Netherlands, Barcelona is still seen as a Valhalla, but this move is better for his development.”

“At Barcelona he would have defended one-on-one again. Then he would not have got any better. Barca would certainly have got better, but he wouldn’t. Now he is learning a whole new way of defending and he is a real defender.” De Ligt has made 33 appearances for Juventus this season and he is currently on the road to claim his first Serie A title, whilst the Bianconeri are also still in the Champions League.

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