Q&A

The great wall of Munich

Matthijs de Ligt discusses his journey from Ajax to Bayern, lessons learnt in Italy and his favourite reading material

Additional Content

How would you describe your time at Ajax? 

Things moved really quickly. I made my debut for Ajax’s first team when I was 17 and just one year later we were in the Europa League final, a game I also played in. And then, a year-and-a-half later, we reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. So a lot happened in those first three years of my career; I also made my debut for the Dutch national team.

Italy is known for its great defenders. Was that one of the reasons you chose to go to Juventus?

Yes, definitely one of the reasons. I grew up playing a certain way at Ajax – attacking football, applying lots of pressure in forward areas –that is ingrained in me. But I also wanted to learn about the art of defending so I could become more complete. I’m benefitting from that now, playing at an even higher level for Bayern.

What did you learn from playing with some of the world’s best defenders in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at Juventus? 

During training, you learn a lot from them. Of course, I tried to watch what they do, but in the end you shouldn’t stray too far from what you are. I had my qualities and they had their qualities.

You’ve mentioned before that you have read many autobiographies, including Per Mertesacker, Jaap Stam, Sol Campbell and John Terry. There's a certain theme there…

Yes, I mentioned those because they are defenders, but they aren’t the only ones. I've read many more. I find them really interesting because I feel I can learn something from everyone. I've also read Zlatan [Ibrahimović]'s, [Cristiano] Ronaldo's, and [Lionel] Messi's.

Have you applied what you’ve learnt from those books?

It’s not necessarily what you do on the pitch but your way of thinking: how you experience the sport, how professional you are, how you handle disappointments, mistakes and pressure. That’s what I try to get from books like that. Those players have experienced all those things.

The tackle worth a goal in itself

Which defenders do you look up to?

I have always looked up to Sergio Ramos. He was always a great role model for me, the way he went into a game, a real winner. He used to be my example and I tried to be like him, but I’ve come to realise that every player is unique. I focus now on things that I’m good at, and that I can improve on.

How has playing in the Champions League influenced you?

The Champions League has had a massive impact. You’re playing against big-name players and you realise that you used to look up to them, but you are now competing at their level. The fact is that you already had those skills, but now you have a stage to showcase them.

Bayern being Champions League contenders every season must haven influenced your decision to move there, right?

Of course! That’s what every player wants. With Juventus, we lost in the last 16 three times in a row. This year we've made it to the quarter-finals with Bayern, so I cannot wait for what’s to come in the Champions League.

And your goal-line clearance against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of your round of 16 tie helped get your club to the last eight. It went viral!

It’s funny because everybody has seen a slide tackle and that in itself isn’t really very special. But as a defender, you always have to assume that your teammate is going to make a mistake. In this case, it was the goalkeeper. It looks spectacular, but I think nine out of ten players would have been able to clear it away easily. What makes it special is that I’m already moving before the goalkeeper loses the ball, enabling me to intervene.

You celebrated it like a goal…

Yes, that’s how it felt, because we were under pressure in the game. Those are important moments in a match, and that’s what provoked that reaction and the feeling that everything was still possible.

Finally, what is your own autobiography going to be called?

I need to keep that a secret! If there ever is going to be a book, it's going to be a long time from now.

How would you describe your time at Ajax? 

Things moved really quickly. I made my debut for Ajax’s first team when I was 17 and just one year later we were in the Europa League final, a game I also played in. And then, a year-and-a-half later, we reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. So a lot happened in those first three years of my career; I also made my debut for the Dutch national team.

Italy is known for its great defenders. Was that one of the reasons you chose to go to Juventus?

Yes, definitely one of the reasons. I grew up playing a certain way at Ajax – attacking football, applying lots of pressure in forward areas –that is ingrained in me. But I also wanted to learn about the art of defending so I could become more complete. I’m benefitting from that now, playing at an even higher level for Bayern.

What did you learn from playing with some of the world’s best defenders in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at Juventus? 

During training, you learn a lot from them. Of course, I tried to watch what they do, but in the end you shouldn’t stray too far from what you are. I had my qualities and they had their qualities.

You’ve mentioned before that you have read many autobiographies, including Per Mertesacker, Jaap Stam, Sol Campbell and John Terry. There's a certain theme there…

Yes, I mentioned those because they are defenders, but they aren’t the only ones. I've read many more. I find them really interesting because I feel I can learn something from everyone. I've also read Zlatan [Ibrahimović]'s, [Cristiano] Ronaldo's, and [Lionel] Messi's.

Have you applied what you’ve learnt from those books?

It’s not necessarily what you do on the pitch but your way of thinking: how you experience the sport, how professional you are, how you handle disappointments, mistakes and pressure. That’s what I try to get from books like that. Those players have experienced all those things.

The tackle worth a goal in itself

Which defenders do you look up to?

I have always looked up to Sergio Ramos. He was always a great role model for me, the way he went into a game, a real winner. He used to be my example and I tried to be like him, but I’ve come to realise that every player is unique. I focus now on things that I’m good at, and that I can improve on.

How has playing in the Champions League influenced you?

The Champions League has had a massive impact. You’re playing against big-name players and you realise that you used to look up to them, but you are now competing at their level. The fact is that you already had those skills, but now you have a stage to showcase them.

Bayern being Champions League contenders every season must haven influenced your decision to move there, right?

Of course! That’s what every player wants. With Juventus, we lost in the last 16 three times in a row. This year we've made it to the quarter-finals with Bayern, so I cannot wait for what’s to come in the Champions League.

And your goal-line clearance against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of your round of 16 tie helped get your club to the last eight. It went viral!

It’s funny because everybody has seen a slide tackle and that in itself isn’t really very special. But as a defender, you always have to assume that your teammate is going to make a mistake. In this case, it was the goalkeeper. It looks spectacular, but I think nine out of ten players would have been able to clear it away easily. What makes it special is that I’m already moving before the goalkeeper loses the ball, enabling me to intervene.

You celebrated it like a goal…

Yes, that’s how it felt, because we were under pressure in the game. Those are important moments in a match, and that’s what provoked that reaction and the feeling that everything was still possible.

Finally, what is your own autobiography going to be called?

I need to keep that a secret! If there ever is going to be a book, it's going to be a long time from now.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

How would you describe your time at Ajax? 

Things moved really quickly. I made my debut for Ajax’s first team when I was 17 and just one year later we were in the Europa League final, a game I also played in. And then, a year-and-a-half later, we reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. So a lot happened in those first three years of my career; I also made my debut for the Dutch national team.

Italy is known for its great defenders. Was that one of the reasons you chose to go to Juventus?

Yes, definitely one of the reasons. I grew up playing a certain way at Ajax – attacking football, applying lots of pressure in forward areas –that is ingrained in me. But I also wanted to learn about the art of defending so I could become more complete. I’m benefitting from that now, playing at an even higher level for Bayern.

What did you learn from playing with some of the world’s best defenders in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at Juventus? 

During training, you learn a lot from them. Of course, I tried to watch what they do, but in the end you shouldn’t stray too far from what you are. I had my qualities and they had their qualities.

You’ve mentioned before that you have read many autobiographies, including Per Mertesacker, Jaap Stam, Sol Campbell and John Terry. There's a certain theme there…

Yes, I mentioned those because they are defenders, but they aren’t the only ones. I've read many more. I find them really interesting because I feel I can learn something from everyone. I've also read Zlatan [Ibrahimović]'s, [Cristiano] Ronaldo's, and [Lionel] Messi's.

Have you applied what you’ve learnt from those books?

It’s not necessarily what you do on the pitch but your way of thinking: how you experience the sport, how professional you are, how you handle disappointments, mistakes and pressure. That’s what I try to get from books like that. Those players have experienced all those things.

The tackle worth a goal in itself

Which defenders do you look up to?

I have always looked up to Sergio Ramos. He was always a great role model for me, the way he went into a game, a real winner. He used to be my example and I tried to be like him, but I’ve come to realise that every player is unique. I focus now on things that I’m good at, and that I can improve on.

How has playing in the Champions League influenced you?

The Champions League has had a massive impact. You’re playing against big-name players and you realise that you used to look up to them, but you are now competing at their level. The fact is that you already had those skills, but now you have a stage to showcase them.

Bayern being Champions League contenders every season must haven influenced your decision to move there, right?

Of course! That’s what every player wants. With Juventus, we lost in the last 16 three times in a row. This year we've made it to the quarter-finals with Bayern, so I cannot wait for what’s to come in the Champions League.

And your goal-line clearance against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of your round of 16 tie helped get your club to the last eight. It went viral!

It’s funny because everybody has seen a slide tackle and that in itself isn’t really very special. But as a defender, you always have to assume that your teammate is going to make a mistake. In this case, it was the goalkeeper. It looks spectacular, but I think nine out of ten players would have been able to clear it away easily. What makes it special is that I’m already moving before the goalkeeper loses the ball, enabling me to intervene.

You celebrated it like a goal…

Yes, that’s how it felt, because we were under pressure in the game. Those are important moments in a match, and that’s what provoked that reaction and the feeling that everything was still possible.

Finally, what is your own autobiography going to be called?

I need to keep that a secret! If there ever is going to be a book, it's going to be a long time from now.

Q&A

The great wall of Munich

Matthijs de Ligt discusses his journey from Ajax to Bayern, lessons learnt in Italy and his favourite reading material

Text Link

How would you describe your time at Ajax? 

Things moved really quickly. I made my debut for Ajax’s first team when I was 17 and just one year later we were in the Europa League final, a game I also played in. And then, a year-and-a-half later, we reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. So a lot happened in those first three years of my career; I also made my debut for the Dutch national team.

Italy is known for its great defenders. Was that one of the reasons you chose to go to Juventus?

Yes, definitely one of the reasons. I grew up playing a certain way at Ajax – attacking football, applying lots of pressure in forward areas –that is ingrained in me. But I also wanted to learn about the art of defending so I could become more complete. I’m benefitting from that now, playing at an even higher level for Bayern.

What did you learn from playing with some of the world’s best defenders in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at Juventus? 

During training, you learn a lot from them. Of course, I tried to watch what they do, but in the end you shouldn’t stray too far from what you are. I had my qualities and they had their qualities.

You’ve mentioned before that you have read many autobiographies, including Per Mertesacker, Jaap Stam, Sol Campbell and John Terry. There's a certain theme there…

Yes, I mentioned those because they are defenders, but they aren’t the only ones. I've read many more. I find them really interesting because I feel I can learn something from everyone. I've also read Zlatan [Ibrahimović]'s, [Cristiano] Ronaldo's, and [Lionel] Messi's.

Have you applied what you’ve learnt from those books?

It’s not necessarily what you do on the pitch but your way of thinking: how you experience the sport, how professional you are, how you handle disappointments, mistakes and pressure. That’s what I try to get from books like that. Those players have experienced all those things.

The tackle worth a goal in itself

Which defenders do you look up to?

I have always looked up to Sergio Ramos. He was always a great role model for me, the way he went into a game, a real winner. He used to be my example and I tried to be like him, but I’ve come to realise that every player is unique. I focus now on things that I’m good at, and that I can improve on.

How has playing in the Champions League influenced you?

The Champions League has had a massive impact. You’re playing against big-name players and you realise that you used to look up to them, but you are now competing at their level. The fact is that you already had those skills, but now you have a stage to showcase them.

Bayern being Champions League contenders every season must haven influenced your decision to move there, right?

Of course! That’s what every player wants. With Juventus, we lost in the last 16 three times in a row. This year we've made it to the quarter-finals with Bayern, so I cannot wait for what’s to come in the Champions League.

And your goal-line clearance against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of your round of 16 tie helped get your club to the last eight. It went viral!

It’s funny because everybody has seen a slide tackle and that in itself isn’t really very special. But as a defender, you always have to assume that your teammate is going to make a mistake. In this case, it was the goalkeeper. It looks spectacular, but I think nine out of ten players would have been able to clear it away easily. What makes it special is that I’m already moving before the goalkeeper loses the ball, enabling me to intervene.

You celebrated it like a goal…

Yes, that’s how it felt, because we were under pressure in the game. Those are important moments in a match, and that’s what provoked that reaction and the feeling that everything was still possible.

Finally, what is your own autobiography going to be called?

I need to keep that a secret! If there ever is going to be a book, it's going to be a long time from now.

How would you describe your time at Ajax? 

Things moved really quickly. I made my debut for Ajax’s first team when I was 17 and just one year later we were in the Europa League final, a game I also played in. And then, a year-and-a-half later, we reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. So a lot happened in those first three years of my career; I also made my debut for the Dutch national team.

Italy is known for its great defenders. Was that one of the reasons you chose to go to Juventus?

Yes, definitely one of the reasons. I grew up playing a certain way at Ajax – attacking football, applying lots of pressure in forward areas –that is ingrained in me. But I also wanted to learn about the art of defending so I could become more complete. I’m benefitting from that now, playing at an even higher level for Bayern.

What did you learn from playing with some of the world’s best defenders in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at Juventus? 

During training, you learn a lot from them. Of course, I tried to watch what they do, but in the end you shouldn’t stray too far from what you are. I had my qualities and they had their qualities.

You’ve mentioned before that you have read many autobiographies, including Per Mertesacker, Jaap Stam, Sol Campbell and John Terry. There's a certain theme there…

Yes, I mentioned those because they are defenders, but they aren’t the only ones. I've read many more. I find them really interesting because I feel I can learn something from everyone. I've also read Zlatan [Ibrahimović]'s, [Cristiano] Ronaldo's, and [Lionel] Messi's.

Have you applied what you’ve learnt from those books?

It’s not necessarily what you do on the pitch but your way of thinking: how you experience the sport, how professional you are, how you handle disappointments, mistakes and pressure. That’s what I try to get from books like that. Those players have experienced all those things.

The tackle worth a goal in itself

Which defenders do you look up to?

I have always looked up to Sergio Ramos. He was always a great role model for me, the way he went into a game, a real winner. He used to be my example and I tried to be like him, but I’ve come to realise that every player is unique. I focus now on things that I’m good at, and that I can improve on.

How has playing in the Champions League influenced you?

The Champions League has had a massive impact. You’re playing against big-name players and you realise that you used to look up to them, but you are now competing at their level. The fact is that you already had those skills, but now you have a stage to showcase them.

Bayern being Champions League contenders every season must haven influenced your decision to move there, right?

Of course! That’s what every player wants. With Juventus, we lost in the last 16 three times in a row. This year we've made it to the quarter-finals with Bayern, so I cannot wait for what’s to come in the Champions League.

And your goal-line clearance against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of your round of 16 tie helped get your club to the last eight. It went viral!

It’s funny because everybody has seen a slide tackle and that in itself isn’t really very special. But as a defender, you always have to assume that your teammate is going to make a mistake. In this case, it was the goalkeeper. It looks spectacular, but I think nine out of ten players would have been able to clear it away easily. What makes it special is that I’m already moving before the goalkeeper loses the ball, enabling me to intervene.

You celebrated it like a goal…

Yes, that’s how it felt, because we were under pressure in the game. Those are important moments in a match, and that’s what provoked that reaction and the feeling that everything was still possible.

Finally, what is your own autobiography going to be called?

I need to keep that a secret! If there ever is going to be a book, it's going to be a long time from now.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

How would you describe your time at Ajax? 

Things moved really quickly. I made my debut for Ajax’s first team when I was 17 and just one year later we were in the Europa League final, a game I also played in. And then, a year-and-a-half later, we reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. So a lot happened in those first three years of my career; I also made my debut for the Dutch national team.

Italy is known for its great defenders. Was that one of the reasons you chose to go to Juventus?

Yes, definitely one of the reasons. I grew up playing a certain way at Ajax – attacking football, applying lots of pressure in forward areas –that is ingrained in me. But I also wanted to learn about the art of defending so I could become more complete. I’m benefitting from that now, playing at an even higher level for Bayern.

What did you learn from playing with some of the world’s best defenders in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at Juventus? 

During training, you learn a lot from them. Of course, I tried to watch what they do, but in the end you shouldn’t stray too far from what you are. I had my qualities and they had their qualities.

You’ve mentioned before that you have read many autobiographies, including Per Mertesacker, Jaap Stam, Sol Campbell and John Terry. There's a certain theme there…

Yes, I mentioned those because they are defenders, but they aren’t the only ones. I've read many more. I find them really interesting because I feel I can learn something from everyone. I've also read Zlatan [Ibrahimović]'s, [Cristiano] Ronaldo's, and [Lionel] Messi's.

Have you applied what you’ve learnt from those books?

It’s not necessarily what you do on the pitch but your way of thinking: how you experience the sport, how professional you are, how you handle disappointments, mistakes and pressure. That’s what I try to get from books like that. Those players have experienced all those things.

The tackle worth a goal in itself

Which defenders do you look up to?

I have always looked up to Sergio Ramos. He was always a great role model for me, the way he went into a game, a real winner. He used to be my example and I tried to be like him, but I’ve come to realise that every player is unique. I focus now on things that I’m good at, and that I can improve on.

How has playing in the Champions League influenced you?

The Champions League has had a massive impact. You’re playing against big-name players and you realise that you used to look up to them, but you are now competing at their level. The fact is that you already had those skills, but now you have a stage to showcase them.

Bayern being Champions League contenders every season must haven influenced your decision to move there, right?

Of course! That’s what every player wants. With Juventus, we lost in the last 16 three times in a row. This year we've made it to the quarter-finals with Bayern, so I cannot wait for what’s to come in the Champions League.

And your goal-line clearance against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of your round of 16 tie helped get your club to the last eight. It went viral!

It’s funny because everybody has seen a slide tackle and that in itself isn’t really very special. But as a defender, you always have to assume that your teammate is going to make a mistake. In this case, it was the goalkeeper. It looks spectacular, but I think nine out of ten players would have been able to clear it away easily. What makes it special is that I’m already moving before the goalkeeper loses the ball, enabling me to intervene.

You celebrated it like a goal…

Yes, that’s how it felt, because we were under pressure in the game. Those are important moments in a match, and that’s what provoked that reaction and the feeling that everything was still possible.

Finally, what is your own autobiography going to be called?

I need to keep that a secret! If there ever is going to be a book, it's going to be a long time from now.

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