TURIN, Italy, Jul 19 – Matthijs de Ligt is targeting the Champions League with Juventus after the Serie A side pried him from Ajax thanks to the largest fee ever paid for a defender.
The 19-year-old, one of the most coveted young players in world football, was unveiled in Turin on Friday after moving to the Italian champions for a combined fee of 75 million euros (Sh8.5bn) plus 10.5 million euros of add-ons.
The previous highest paid for a defender was the 84.5 million euros that Liverpool paid Southampton a year ago for another Dutchman Virgil van Dijk.
Juve haven’t won the tournament since beating Ajax in Rome in 1996 and De Ligt is hoping to end that drought of European glory after missing out himself thanks to a gut-wrenching semi-final defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last season.
“There are three competitions we can play for, maybe four with the Supercup — championship, Coppa Italia and Champions League. We want to win everything,” said De Ligt, who turns 20 next month.
“I think this is the most important thing … I think a club like Juventus wants to win so it won’t be different this year.”
De Ligt, who has signed a five-year deal with Maurizio Sarri’s side worth a reported 12 million euros a season, said that Cristiano Ronaldo’s appeal for him to join Juventus made no difference to his decision, as he had already made up his mind to join the five-time Ballon d’Or winner at the Allianz Stadium.
De Ligt had also been linked with Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain after his impressive performances for a young Ajax side that won the domestic double but missed out on the Champions League final on away goals thanks to Lucas Moura’s 96th-minute winner for Spurs in Amsterdam.
“When the season was over I was going to see if I can enjoy a vacation and get some rest and then after join a new club,” he told reporters.
“At that moment, I was pretty sure it was Juventus, but obviously it was really nice that someone big like Cristiano Ronaldo asked me if I wanted to join Juventus.
“It was a big compliment but it was not a difference between joining Juventus or not.”
De Ligt’s arrival adds young blood to an ageing defence that features 34-year-old Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, 32.
He played 117 times for Ajax in all competitions and scored 13 goals, including the winner in Turin as Ajax eliminated Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals.
De Ligt has also played 17 times for the Netherlands, forming a formidable central defensive partnership with Liverpool’s Van Dijk.
De Ligt is this summer’s latest big-money transfer following the 120-million-euro deal that took France striker Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona and the 126 million euros that Atletico splashed out on 19-year-old forward Joao Felix from Benfica.
Barca also shelled out 75 million euros for De Ligt’s former Ajax teammate Frenkie de Jong, while La Liga rivals Real Madrid bagged Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard from Chelsea for an initial 100 million euros, with another 34 million euros in potential add-ons.