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Mino Raiola Says Barcelona Treated Matthijs de Ligt 'Like a Piece of Cheese'

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2020

ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 07: Matthijs De Ligt of Juventus reacts during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and Juventus at Stadio Olimpico on December 07, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Matthijs de Ligt's agent, Mino Raiola, has hit out at Barcelona over their attempts to sign the defender last summer. 

The centre-back was linked with a transfer to the Camp Nou in the summer but ultimately moved to Juventus from Ajax instead.

Raiola told Voetbal International (h/t Sport):

"Barca thought: '[Frenkie] De Jong's coming, [De Ligt] will arrive as well.' They treated him like a piece of cheese, as we say. But the reasons they wanted him there were wrong...did they believe a player like [Gerard] Pique was going to leave his spot in the team? 

"In Holland, they almost believe Barca are a Dutch club, not a foreign club, they saw this transfer almost as sacrilege, they thought he had to go there."

The agent said that playing time was what was most important to De Ligt, rather than his salary, and the pair settled on Juve after the player told him he wanted to go to "the Harvard of defending."

Barca signed De Ligt's former Ajax team-mate Frenkie de Jong in January 2019, although he did not arrive until the summer. Had De Ligt followed suit, he likely would have been a natural fit with the Catalan giants thanks to his excellent ability on the ball.

He would have had Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti to compete with for game time, but at 20, even a player of De Ligt's ability and potential won't necessarily walk into the starting lineup of a club of Barca's stature.

The Dutchman could still have become a regular fixture in the side, though. De Jong has already managed to do so despite Barcelona having Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Arthur and Arturo Vidal among their midfield options.

De Ligt has made 16 starts for Juve this season, but he has perhaps been thrust into regular action sooner than expected as Giorgio Chiellini ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament one game into the campaign. He has improved in Turin after a rocky start, but he was left out of the starting lineup in favour of Merih Demiral for the Bianconeri's final four matches of 2019.

Maurizio Sarri has been praised for his willingness to drop him:

Gianni Verschueren @ReverschPass

Not a lot of clubs would have the balls to spend €75 million on a stud young defender, then bench him because another talented youngster got a single chance and ran with it. Welcome to Juventus

Chiellini is 35, so his time as a regular starter for Juve could soon be at an end, particularly if he's affected by his long-term injury.

Pique will be 33 in February, though, so his time as a key player in Barca's back line is also on the wane, so with some patience, De Ligt would have made a fine long-term successor.

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