Juventus make De Ligt world’s most expensive defender

ROME (AFP) – Dutch central defender Matthijs de Ligt, one of the most coveted young players in world football, signed yesterday for Juventus from Ajax for a fee of EUR75 million (USD84.2 million) plus add-ons.

The 19-year-old agreed a five-year contract with the Italian champions.

Juventus said in a statement the fee would be paidover five financial years, with “additional costs” of EUR10.5 million.

The combined fee makes De Ligt the world’s most expensive defender, surpassing the EUR84 million Liverpool paid to sign his Netherlands teammate Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton in 2018.

De Ligt is Juventus’ third most expensive signing after the EUR105 million they paid to buy Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid in 2018 and the EUR90 million transfer of Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli in 2016.

De Ligt had also been linked with Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain after his impressive performances for a young Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals last season.

His fellow Ajax teammate, 22-year-old midfielder Frenkie de Jong, has already joined Barcelona.

Matthijs de Ligt is now the world’s most expensive defender following his move to Juventus. – AFP

In a deal hammered out by his powerful Italian-born Dutch agent Mino Raiola, De Ligt will earn a basic annual salary of EUR7.5 million that could reach EUR12 million with bonuses, according to reports in Italy.

The Turin-based club, now coached by former Chelsea mentor Maurizio Sarri, were keen to bring new blood into an ageing defence that features 34-year-old Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, 32.

De Ligt played 117 games for Ajax in all competitions, scoring 13 goals. He scored the winner in Turin as Ajax eliminated Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals.

De Ligt has played 17 times for the Netherlands, forming a formidable central defensive partnership with Van Dijk.

He took over the captain’s armband at Ajax in March 2018, making him the club’s youngest ever captain.

De Ligt said Ronaldo had urged him to join Juventus after the two faced each other for their countries in the Nations League final in June won by Portugal.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman says De Ligt “will become one of the best defenders in the world in a short time”.

De Ligt is the latest big money summer transfer following the EUR120 million deal that took France striker Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona and the EUR126 million that Atletico splashed out on 19-year-old forward Joao Felix from Benfica.

After a disappointing 2018-2019 season, Real Madrid have strengthened with the acquisition of Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard from Chelsea for an initial EUR100 million euros, with another EUR34 million euros in potential add-ons.

Premier League champions Manchester City bought Spain international Rodri for a club record EUR70 million (GBP63 million).