The Netherlands international idolised the Portuguese superstar as a child – now they are team-mates in Turin
The two most significant transfers of Juventus’ recent history have both been effectively sealed on the field, rather than off it.
It was the remarkable standing ovation afforded to Cristiano Ronaldo by fans in Turin last year which convinced the then Real Madrid superstar that the Bianconeri was the club for him.
Just over a year later, it was the Portuguese doing the convincing.
At the end of his country’s Nations League victory over Netherlands, Ronaldo deliberately sought out Oranje defender Matthijs de Ligt – not for a customary post-match handshake or to offer some words of consolation, but to implore him to join him in Turin.
“I didn’t understand him at first,” the centre-half admitted to NOS. “I was a little shocked, so I laughed, but I didn’t say anything.
“Shortly after the game you are not at all concerned with it, you are disappointed you have lost and that is the only thing you are thinking about.”
Ronaldo’s surprise invite made a huge impression on De Ligt, though. The 19-year-old had, after all, idolised Ronaldo as a child.
“I always wanted to be Cristiano Ronaldo when [my friends and I] were playing football in the garden,” De Ligt told VI in May.
“That was especially in his time when he played at Manchester United.
“My first football shirt also belonged to him from that time.”
Ronaldo’s recruitment drive, thus, played a pivotal role in De Ligt’s decision to spurn numerous offers from elsewhere to move to join Juve, with the transfer is already confirmed.
Of course, it wasn’t the only factor. Money was also key, as it so often is when super-agent Mino Raiola is involved.
Just as Ronaldo ended their hopes of winning the Champions League in 2018, De Ligt did likewise last season, with his towering header sealing Ajax’s 3-2 aggregate win over Juve in April.
If you can’t beat them, sign them. Not that anyone outside of the club every truly thought Juve capable of pulling off two such sensational coups in consecutive summers.
The Old Lady, though, have handled both deals beautifully. Both took time, effort and skill.
The Bianconeri had, of course, been courting Ronaldo for years, while an attempt was made last year to persuade De Ligt to move to Turin.
In the end, he stayed in Amsterdam, much to the delight of Ajax, who were thus never going to stand in his way this summer.
The amicable nature of the relationship between club and player is also why De Ligt is valued at just €70m (£63m/$80m) in a market in which Manchester United have just paid potentially €55m (£50m/$63m) for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a promising full-back but one uncapped at senior international level and with less than 50 first-team appearances for Crystal Palace to his name.
De Ligt, by contrast, is already a regular at the heart of the Netherlands defence alongside Virgil van Dijk, while he is coming off the back of a season in which he captained a delightful Ajax side to the semi-finals of the Champions League