With the Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt, record champions FC Bayern have signed one of the most sought-after players in Europe. The high transfer fee for the 22-year-old should be well invested.
Matthijs de Ligt is already one for the football record books. In 2017, at the age of 17, he became the youngest player of all time to reach the final of a European club competition: his club Ajax Amsterdam lost the Europa League final against Manchester United 0-2. At the time, de Ligt had already won the first of his 38 international matches, as the youngest debutant for the Oranje team since 1945. In 2018, the Italian newspaper "Tuttosport" was the first defender ever to name him the "Golden Boy", Europe's most promising young professional. In the same year, at 18, de Ligt became the youngest captain in the history of the Dutch football record champions at Ajax. A good four years later he has matured from a rough diamond to a jewel,
The transfer fee of 70 million euros (plus possibly ten million euros in bonus payments later), which FC Bayern is said to be paying to Juventus Turin for its new defense chief, should therefore be money well invested. The Munich team had already courted de Ligt in 2019 but lost out in the transfer poker game against Juve. With the Italians, de Ligt became champion (2020) and cup winner (2021). "You saw from day one that he had huge potential," said former Bundesliga professional Erik Meijer four years ago, who now works as an expert for the German TV broadcaster "Sky". "He's big, strong, but also fast and agile."
Another star from the Ajax squad forge
De Ligt - born in Leiderdorp in August 1999, around 15 kilometers north-east of The Hague, the seat of the Dutch government - came to the famous football school of Ajax Amsterdam at the age of nine. The squad factory has already produced numerous world stars such as the former Dutch superstars Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, the twins Ronald and Frank de Boer or the long-time national goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
De Ligt went through all the youth teams of Ajax. At the age of 16, he received his first professional contract. Shortly after his 17th birthday, he celebrated his professional debut in a Dutch Cup game and also scored his first goal. After that, his career went uphill, as did his market value: from 100,000 euros in mid-2016 to currently 70 million euros - the sum that FC Bayern is now shelling out for the defender from the Netherlands.
"Always expect the worst"
"De Ligt has everything you need," said former Ajax star and coach Frank de Boer five years ago, about the 1.89-meter tall player, who is mostly used as a central defender. "Sometimes you feel like he can defend all by himself. He's everywhere."
This corresponds exactly to the game philosophy of de Ligts. "The art of defending is to always expect the worst," said the defensive player a year ago to the soccer portal "90min.de": "I always think: 'What if my teammate loses the ball? What if the opponent can cross. I always think that way. It doesn't surprise you so much because you can be as fast and strong as possible. But if you don't, you're always a second or a millisecond behind late."
Coordination problems with his defensive colleagues from FC Bayern are unlikely. Munich also signed Dutch defenders Noussair Mazraoui (24 years old) and Ryan Gravenberch (20) for the new season. Both also went through the Ajax youth academy and played together with De Ligt at Amsterdam.