(Reuters) – Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt had made up his mind to join the Serie A champions even before Cristiano Ronaldo asked him about a potential move to Italy, the teenager said on Friday.
Juventus announced the signing of the 19-year-old on Thursday, landing one of the most sought-after young players in world soccer from Ajax Amsterdam for 75 million euros (67 million pounds).
The Netherlands international said last month that he had been asked by Portugal’s Ronaldo following the Nations League final about linking up in Turin.
“After the final I was already sure I wanted to join Juve … it was a big compliment to have Ronaldo ask me to join … but it didn’t make the difference,” De Ligt told reporters in his first news conference as a Juve player.
“I spoke to (manager) Maurizio Sarri just to get to know each other. He was one of the reasons I wanted to join here, I’ve heard a lot of good things about him and I like his footballing philosophy and how he prepares his defence.”
De Ligt, who captained his former club in their thrilling run to the Champions League semi-finals last season, said he did not feel any additional pressure after becoming one of the most expensive defenders in the world.
“Pressure is normal in football. For me it’s not a problem. I’ll show what I’m capable of on the pitch,” he added.
“I’m 19, I can still improve and I want to do that. It’s important to work hard every day and to learn and I hope to become a better player.”
“Juventus is a great forward step for me. In Holland there’s a lot of building from the back and defending high up the pitch. Italy is more about zonal marking and defending together, I think that Juve can help me and I can help them.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)