Premier League

De Ligt: Europe's next great centre-back

 • by Stefan Bienkowski
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Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly interested in making an interesting central defensive switch this summer, with reports linking promising Ajax defender, Matthijs de Ligt, with a move to London to replace Manchester United transfer target Toby Alderweireld.

With some outlets quoting figures as high as £50million to prize the 18-year-old star away from the Dutch giants, now may be a good moment to see just how well De Ligt compares to Mauricio Pochettino’s current roster.

Perhaps what isn’t surprising is how well the towering, Dutch defender has done in the air for Ajax this season. De Ligt’s average of 3.36 aerial duels per 90 minutes is better than Alderweireld and Davinson Sánchez’s and sits just short of Jan Vertonghen’s 3.37 per 90 minutes. However, the young Holland international does tend to win more duels than any of Tottenham’s central defenders with a win ratio of 91.3 per cent.

De Ligt’s reading of the game is also superb. When it comes to interceptions Alderweireld averages a pitiful 0.3 per game, while Vertonghen and Sanchez pick up 1.68 and 1.51 per match yet the Tottenham target is currently picking up 1.93 per 90 minutes for Ajax.

In fact, the only clear metric that De Ligt struggles to match Tottenham’s current trio is in tackling, where he only averages 1.13. The lowest in terms of tackles per 90 minutes for Pochettino’s men is Sanchez at 1.47, suggesting some work would need to be done on improving that aspect of his game.

Of course these stats are slightly altered by differences in the Dutch and English top divisions. De Ligt benefits from playing for a team that dominate their domestic league, meaning he’s tasked with fewer defensive situations than Tottenham’s own defenders. Which perhaps makes his heading and interception stats all the more impressive.

What should play in De Ligt’s favour more than just about any stat is his age. At just 18 the Ajax defender is over ten years younger than both Vertonghen and Alderweireld, while the relatively young Sánchez is three years his senior. In other words, De Ligt may be good now but he probably won’t hit his peak for another eight years.

There’s also the fact that in Sánchez Tottenham already have a rubber stamp of approval in confirming that a defender that can make his mark at Ajax will almost certainly fit in at the North London club perfectly well. A promising, young defender that would almost certainly be worth even the highest of transfer fees.

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