Already a permanent fixture of the Ajax eleven and a Dutch international at 17, Matthijs de Ligt’s potential is massive.

  • By Michael Bell
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De Ligt’s rise from the Ajax U17’s to the first team in a year has been nothing short of exceptional. Part of the Ajax Academy since the age of nine, De Ligt gained plaudits for his performances for the U17’s and U19’s during the 2015/16 campaign and made his professional debut at the age of 16 for Jong Ajax against Emmen in August last year. A few weeks later, Peter Bosz gave him his first team debut in the KNVB Cup match with Willem II. De Ligt scored in a 6-0 win and a star was born.

He went on to make 23 appearances for Ajax and became undroppable towards the end of the campaign as Ajax reached the Europa League final. De Ligt’s performances in the competition gained him plaudits from all around Europe, especially the semi-final against Lyon which saw the defender dominate now Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette.

The awe surrounding De Ligt’s performances led to Danny Blind calling the centre-back up to the National team and he stunned the press by naming the 17-year-old in the starting line-up for the World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia. However, De Ligt made two errors which led to two goals and Blind switched the youngster for Wesley Hoedt at half-time. The match finished 2-0 and Blind was sacked just days later.

De Ligt didn’t let the setback get to him and he has since earned another cap for the Netherlands and is set to be a major part of the Oranje squad for years to come.

Style of play

Despite only being 17 it is clear that De Ligt has all the attributes to become a world class centre back. He is strong and precise in the tackle, fearless in the air and has excellent technique with the ball at his feet. Over six foot and built like a tank, De Ligt can go toe to toe with any forward in Europe and has enough pace to handle speedy attackers. He is also versatile with De Ligt capable of playing along the backline and even stepping into a DM role if needed.

The only flaw seen in De Ligt’s game so far is that he can be caught out by long balls over the top, but if he overcomes this there will be few weaknesses that opponents can exploit.

What to expect from De Ligt this season

Expect to see more of the same from last season. This will be his first campaign as an undisputed starter in the Ajax lineup and he will look to enhance his reputation as one of Europe’s finest young defenders. His partnership with Davinson Sanchez in the centre of defence can only get better and the duo will play a key role as Ajax look to end a three-year wait for the Eredivisie title. De Ligt will also be hoping to maintain his place in the Dutch national team and prove the disappointing performance against Bulgaria was a one off.

De Ligt has the potential to be a world class centre-back and Ajax fans should enjoy every minute they see him in action before a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs inevitably comes.

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