Leonardo Bonucci: Matthijs de Ligt 'Will Become the Best Defender in the World'

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2019

TURIN, ITALY - OCTOBER 22: Matthijs de Ligt of Juventus in action during the UEFA Champions League group D match between Juventus and Lokomotiv Moskva at Juventus Arena on October 22, 2019 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Juventus star Leonardo Bonucci has backed team-mate Matthijs de Ligt to develop into the best defender on the planet.

De Ligt made the switch from Ajax to the Serie A giants in the summer, having established a reputation as one of the best young players in world football.

Despite his big reputation, the Netherlands international has endured an inconsistent start to life at his new club and has made some costly errors.

However, Bonucci has said the youngster will overcome the early lapses, per Tuttosport (h/t Football Italia).

"De Ligt's fate is already decided. He's struggling like we all did, but he should be left alone. He has the quality to become, if not the best, one of the best defenders in the world. He's made mistakes, like I did in the past and anyone in general: It's inevitable.

"Wearing this shirt puts pressure on you, and he's doing it at just 20 years old, defending zonally after having spent his entire career marking man-to-man. It's only a matter of time. Even against Lokomotiv Moscow, he had a very good game.

"He's only human, too. But, with experience, he will become the best defender in the world."

Juventus were 2-1 winners in their UEFA Champions League showdown with Lokomotiv Moscow on Tuesday.

The visitors were able to take a shock lead in Turin before a brace from Paulo Dybala turned the match around in the second period:

De Ligt was at least partly culpable for the away side's opener, as he bounded out of the back line in an attempt to win a header. After losing the duel, Lokomotiv were able to get in on goal and score.

The Juvefc.com Twitter account also noted that experienced defenders have made errors for the club in the past:

Juvefc.com @juvefcdotcom

If we went by criticism, Bonucci would have been sold before the end of his first season at Juve, Barzagli too. They were both older than Matthijs and had experience of Serie A. I'll keep defending De Ligt, call it bias or whatever you like. I prefer to see it as common sense.

It's generally accepted the Bianconeri have landed a generational talent in De Ligt, who was outstanding for Ajax last season.

The Amsterdam giants won the Eredivisie and the KNVB Cup, with the Dutch defender captaining the side to those successes. Perhaps most impressively of all, they made a run to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, beating defending champions Real Madrid and Juventus on their way to the final four.

The youngster's performances have seen him earn a nomination for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, too:

#BallondOr @francefootball

Among the nominees for the 2019 #ballondor ⤵️ Matthijs de Ligt @juventusfc https://t.co/4Rw3heMAyX

Giorgio Chiellini's knee injury has seen Maurizio Sarri turn to De Ligt a little more than he probably would have liked early in the campaign. The coach will be hoping the experience he's gaining now will aid the defender in the long term.

Given how high-profile a player he has become, not to mention the lucrative nature of his transfer, De Ligt's displays will always be scrutinised. Nevertheless, based on Bonucci's words, there's still a lot of faith in the 20-year-old in Turin.