It was an all-too-familiar sight for Juventus fans. Matthijs de Ligt giving away another penalty.
It was in the ninth minute of extra time in what had been a thrilling Coppa Italia final between Juve and Inter Milan in the Italian capital, when De Ligt stumbled, failed to react quickly enough and pulled down Dutch compatriot Stefan De Vrij inside the box to gift Inter the chance to take the lead.
Ivan Perišić stepped up and made no mistake about it, sending the ball past Mattia Perin to make it 3-2 to Inter, and Simone Inzaghi’s side never looked back, with the Croatian adding a fourth with a spectacular half-volley to seal the win .
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But the turning point in the game arrived with De Ligt’s foul. The Dutchman has improved immeasurably since joining Juve from Ajax three years ago, part of the talent raid on the Champions League semi-finalists that saw Frenkie de Jong move to Barcelona. The exciting Eredivise outfit were only denied a meeting in the final with Liverpool by Lucas Moura’s late heroics for Spurs.
Sitting under the learning tree of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci has been, as one would expect, hugely beneficial for De Ligt’s development as a defender: who better to learn from than one of the great defensive duos of the last 30 years?
But De Ligt is still guilty of giving away a number of penalties per season, as well as other moments of madness or silly mistakes that tend to punish his own side. However, those moments aside, he has been one of Juventus’ best performers this season, and it could be his di lui last di lui in Turin.
The Old Lady are in dire need of a squad revamp this summer. Years of wasted money have finally caught up with them, and their current squad is a mess: a mix of experience, youth and middling mediocrity. But to perform the revolution of the squad that Max Allegri no doubt wants, the club need money, and De Ligt could be the sacrificial lamb in order to generate it.
Federico Chiesa and Dušan Vlahović aside, De Ligt is the Juventus player with the most value, and could plausibly generate upwards of £ 100m for the club if he were sold this summer.
De Ligt’s contract expires in 2024, but it’s thought that a clause in his contract kicks in this summer that means any team that makes a bid of £ 127m can sign him. Whether any side would want to pay that for De Ligt remains to be seen, but the option is available.
Juve are in the same boat as fellow European Super League rebels Barcelona, in that they need one major sale to finance a squad overhaul. Things are not quite as extreme for the Italian giants, and they are not operating under the same strict La Liga rules, but a big exit certainly cannot be ruled out.
We’ve seen Liverpool linked to De Jong in recent weeks and months. So should Liverpool consider a move for De Ligt?
Central defense is arguably the last place that Liverpool need to buy for at the moment, considering the quality Jürgen Klopp has in the role, but what works in De Ligt’s favor is his age. He’s only 22, despite seemingly being around for years and years at this stage. FSG will like his profile of him in this regard. A Virgil van Dijk-De Ligt partnership, which has been replicated a few times at international level, could be mouth-watering.
Moreover, De Ligt could learn from Van Dijk like he has done with Chiellini and Bonucci. When Van Dijk finally leaves Liverpool, De Ligt could then take over his role di lui as the leader of the defense, with Ibrahima Konaté also still likely to be at the club. Meanwhile, FSG have a decision to make on Joe Gomez.
But barring big departures, this summer isn’t the right time for FSG to be investing huge amounts on another defender, especially with midfield a primary issue that needs addressing. Should De Ligt remain at Juventus for another season, then perhaps a move in the summer of 2023 makes more sense. Whatever the timeline, even if most of the focus is on Barcelona, De Ligt’s situation is definitely one Liverpool should keep an eye on too.