In 2019, as he sought to accelerate his development and compete for the highest honors in European football, Matthijs de Ligt joined one of the biggest and most successful clubs on the continent.
Three years later, as he left Juventus for Bayern Munich, many would say he was just doing the same thing again.
Indeed, the departure of the Dutch international is a succinct and clear message: a talented young player no longer believes he can realize his full potential in Turin.
It’s a damning condemnation of the wastefulness Juve have shown, something that perhaps dates back to the 2017 Champions League final. It’s a spell that has included bad decisions regarding the head coach, dismal moves in the transfer market and, ultimately, a series of disastrous performances on the pitch.
After being demolished 4-1 by Real Madrid in Cardiff, any casual observer could have told you the team were in desperate need of reinforcements in midfield, with the Sami Khedira-Miralem Pjanic duo simply overwhelmed by a Spanish team that boasted the top two figures. and more talent in this area of the field.
Khedira was clearly in decline and Claudio Marchisio was struggling with injuries, while Blaise Matuidi, Stefano Sturaro and Rodrigo Bentancur were unlikely to be confused with their predecessors Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal.
Yet, instead of taking steps to improve that department, Juve instead spent 46 million euros ($46.82 million) on Douglas Costa and 40 million euros ($40.71 million) on Federico. Bernardeschi. That’s two left-handed wingers in a single summer, given to a coach who was never going to field the pair in tandem when he also had to use Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain.
A year later, 2018 was the summer Cristiano Ronaldo was brought to Turin, a €100m ($101.75m) transfer fee that made Higuain surplus to requirements.
Yet after adding CR7, sporting director Fabio Paratici looked at a side which – thanks to Giorgio Chiellini and Medhi Benatia – boasted the best defense in Serie A and decided to spend 35 million euros anyway (35, $65 million) for Leonardo Bonucci.
A further €40.4 million ($41.15 million) went to Valencia for Joao Cancelo, while Emre Can arrived as a free agent from Liverpool. This latter duo only lasted a year as Juve, in search of a more modern style of play, parted ways with Allegri and appointed Maurizio Sarri as their new coach.
Sarri wanted a more defensively shrewd right-back than Cancelo, so a swap deal was agreed with Manchester City which brought Danilo in as a swap. But Juve and Paratici didn’t stop there, spending big on even more defenders, paying Ajax not only €75m ($76.45m) for De Ligt, but also €18m. euros in Sassuolo (18.35 million dollars) for Merih Demiral.
Meanwhile, Can would also go. Sarri would try and fail to make Mirlem Pjanic a real registerwhile Khedira, Matuidi and Bentancur continued to make little impression.
But with all the available money once again spent on defenders, only free agents Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot were added to the midfield. Sarri somehow won the league with this poorly constructed team, but was replaced by Andrea Pirlo.
As if to prove the folly of Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi’s moves, Juve then invested in more wingers. This involved spending an additional 50 million euros ($50.97 million) to bring in Federico Chiesa and 35 million euros ($35.65 million) for Dejan Kulusevski, while the midfielder has once again been changed as Pjanic traveled to Barcelona in a swap deal for Arthur Melo and Weston. McKennie arrived on loan from Schalke.
Pirlo had never been a manager before, so understandably struggled to forge a cohesive unit out of such ill-fitting pieces, eventually being sacked after a year to facilitate Max Allegri’s return.
At the same time, Juve finally invested properly in midfield when Manuel Locatelli arrived from Sassuolo, although there was an inescapable feeling that he was a player who would have thrived far more under Pirlo or Sarri.
So to sum this up; Allegri was overwhelmed in midfield so Juve bought him wingers and then sacked him. Sarri needed a regista and received centre-backs but won the league and was sacked anyway. Pirlo got the register Sarri needed (Arthur) and two other wingers but struggled to be competitive and was replaced by Allegri, who in turn got the modern midfielder (Locatelli) who would have helped make the system work. Pirlo.
The coronavirus pandemic has of course had an impact on the club’s finances, but the large sums that have been spent have clearly been used in the wrong areas as the Old Lady was apparently tackling their problems a year too late at every stage. .
Now she has sold De Ligt to Bayern for 67 million euros ($68.64 million), about $8 million less than the 75 million euros ($76.83 million) that Juve paid to Ajax in 2019. Losing money on such a player would have been unthinkable the moment he moved to Italy, another fact which adds to the feeling that the last three seasons have been completely wasted.
Is it any wonder then that De Ligt decided his future would be better served elsewhere? Juve appear to be in an endless cycle of changing sporting directors, coaches, centre-backs and wingers, unable to land the right combination at all times and ignoring the midfield’s glaring weakness for more than four years .
“I think Bayern’s path is the same as the one I played at Ajax,” De Ligt said in an interview on the official website of the German clubadding that “at Juventus it was a bit different”.
Looking objectively at the landscape, it’s entirely understandable that De Ligt decided that Juventus were in fact no closer to their lofty ambitions now than they were when he arrived at the club. They might actually be further apart.
Plus, remembering how well-loved he was back then, it’s equally fair to say that the player himself has remained largely immobile. Juventus’ tumultuous state and their own poor form mean their move to Serie A has not been the rewarding and educational experience everyone expected.
Far from benefiting both, De Ligt and Juve have seemingly remained frozen in one place, time passing but no tangible gains being made.
He therefore decided to end his Italian adventure in favor of a transfer to Bayern Munich, a team which, like the Bianconeri, dominates their national championship but which – above all – also knows how to succeed in the Champions League.
Indeed, in the last nine years alone they have lifted the Bundesliga title every season and won European football’s top honor twice, also adding the German Cup to each campaign for good measure.
They are everything Juventus aspire to be, making Matthijs de Ligt’s decision both an understandable decision and a damning condemnation of the Old Lady’s debauchery throughout their three years together at the same time.