New Bayern Munich recruit Matthijs de Ligt set for tilt at Supercup as Leizpig lie in wait
Fresh from penning a five-year deal with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, former Ajax and Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt is looking forward to going into battle with his new teammates as they face RB Leipzig in the Supercup.
Ahead of Saturday's season curtain raiser at the Red Bull Arena, bundesliga.com chatted with the Dutch international about life in new surroundings, leading by example and new colleague, Sadio Mane.
bundesliga.com: Why did you decide to come to Bayern?
Matthijs de Ligt: “First of all, Bayern wanted me. I always had a good feeling for the club. I think it is a really big club; one of the best international clubs in the world. I really like the way of playing here; the way they see football: the offensive way. Hard training. These are values I really like so, for me, when Bayern came, it was not difficult to think about it. I said: 'ok, I want to go to Bayern'.”
bundesliga.com: How did the Ajax youth academy change you?
De Ligt: “It changed me a lot. I am normally a really shy person. I am down to earth but shy. I just look how people are at the beginning and don’t speak too much. In the academy, you learn how to stand up for yourself because a lot of the guys in my team were loud and would talk all the time. I wasn't like them. You had to become like them to get respect. That's what I did and it shaped me now as the player and the person I am.”
Watch: De Ligt quick off the mark in Bayern debut
bundesliga.com: Who has influenced you in your career?
De Ligt: "First of all, Peter Bosz, who gave me my debut at Ajax with the first team. I think it's not that normal for a coach to see a 16-year-old boy in the youth academy – and a centre-back at that – and put him in the first team. I am still really grateful for the confidence and the opportunity he gave me.
That was the first step in my professional career. After that, Erik ten Hag, who is now the coach of Manchester United, made me captain and gave me more responsibility. That also shaped my career a lot [in terms of] how I wanted to become as a player. He helped me in that way to become more of the leader. I think these two coaches are the two big influences in my footballing career.”
bundesliga.com: Have you spoken to Bosz about the Bundesliga?
De Ligt: “Yes, three years ago, when he went to Leverkusen. He was really happy at that time after qualifying for the Champions League and said that the Bundesliga was really hard and tough so I know it is going to be a tough league to play in.”
bundesliga.com: How was it becoming a captain at such a young age?
"I was surprised. To be named captain of a team with so many experienced players like [Klaas-Jan] Huntelaar, [Daley] Blind and [Dusan] Tadic. To me, being made captain is an honour, not something that is normal. Normally, the most experienced guys get the captain’s armband but the coach saw something in me that he wanted in a captain. I was really grateful and happy to become the captain of Ten Hag’s team.”
bundesliga.com: What makes you a good leader?
De Ligt: “I find that hard to say about oneself. The only thing I can do is my job and if I am captain or not, to try to play my own game. If that helps the team, that's the most important thing. If the coach says that this player is a leader or a captain, that's his decision, not mine. I think that, especially as a defender, you have to speak. You have to bring confidence and stability to the team. Hopefully, I can become some kind of leader here at Bayern too.”
bundesliga.com: What language do you speak on the pitch?
De Ligt: “I have to say, for now, I do a lot in German because the most important things you have to say on the pitch [sound] the same in Dutch. Left or right, for example, are exactly the same. Telling your teammate that he has time on the ball is also the same. At this point, I’m speaking mostly German but sometimes, if someone doesn’t understand, I say it in English.”
bundesliga.com: How would you describe yourself as a player? Do you like scoring goals?
De Ligt: “[Scoring] is something extra. First of all, I am a defender. For example, in the [pre-season] game against DC United, I scored an amazing goal but for me, the most important thing is to look at how I play as a defender because that's the reason the club bought me. They didn’t buy me to score 30 goals. I always look at how I defend, how I help the team at defending but also with the build-up. That's the most important thing for me. That is the player I would like to be and how you might describe me.”
bundesliga.com: Who pops up in your head when you think of a Dutchman at Bayern?
De Ligt: “Firstly, Arjen Robben, I think. He played here for many years. He won the Champions League. He even scored in the final, so if I think of a player who was Dutch like me, it's Arjen Robben.”
bundesliga.com: How is your relationship to Robben?
De Ligt: “I was with him with the national team six times, I think. I know him in person. Unfortunately, it was at the end of his career so I didn’t have that much time to ask him things or to play with him but in that short time [speaking with him] was valuable to me.”
bundesliga.com: Robben was quite the idol, wasn't he?
De Ligt: “Yes, he was an example. A really big example. That is also the way they want to be here at Bayern Munich: work hard, give 150 per cent every time and then the results will come. I think I can say that I agree with that philosophy.”
bundesliga.com: Do you think Thomas Müller is a good leader?
De Ligt: “Yes, because he's so smart. He is a player that knows exactly when to be in the box or to pass the ball. For a defender, that's very difficult to defend against. He has a lot of qualities; we have a lot of players up front with many qualities.”
bundesliga.com: What do you already know about Munich? Have you ever been to Oktoberfest?
De Ligt: “I know Oktoberfest, the Lederhosen. People say ‘Servus’ when they meet each other. These are the three things that come to my mind right now. I played once here against Bayern with Ajax. I think that was in October so that was also during the Oktoberfest.”
bundesliga.com: Who are your biggest rivals?
De Ligt: “This year, Dortmund have done a really good job in the transfer market, bought a lot of players. Unfortunately, it's come to pass that [Sebastien] Haller has a tumour. That's obviously really sad for him. I hope he can recover soon; I heard from everybody he's a great guy.
"Leipzig have always been strong. There are several other teams that sometimes have seasons where they are really good and sometimes maybe less so: Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, these kind of teams. Leipzig and Dortmund are the biggest rivals for the title.”
bundesliga.com: Are you excited about playing in front of the German fans?
De Ligt: “I have only played twice in German stadiums: Schalke’s and Bayern Munich’s. I don’t know how [the others] are yet but I heard from everybody that [the stadiums] are really full. I'm really curious to see.”
bundesliga.com: What are your first impressions of Sadio Mane?
De Ligt: "He is one of the best attackers in the world. He did an amazing job at Liverpool and now, I think we can be grateful that he has come to Bayern Munich.”
bundesliga.com: Are you looking forward to Saturday's Supercup?
De Ligt: “Yes, of course. It will be really nice to start my career at Bayern Munich at the Supercup. We will do everything to win it for sure."
bundesliga.com: How do you rate Leipzig?
De Ligt: “I think their biggest strength is that they are always a team; they always play with high intensity. They have a lot of good players. I think everybody, after last year, would say [Christopher] Nkunku [is the main man]. He's an amazing player. If you play like a team as Leipzig do, you become really difficult to beat so it's definitely going to be tough for us.”
Karim Adeyemi named Rookie of the Season!
The Dortmund youngster has won the most votes for the Bundesliga Rookie of the Season prize, presented by Sorare.
Serge Gnabry, Karim Adeyemi and the key players in the title race
bundesliga.com looks at the star men helping keep the title race between Bayern and BVB on the boil...
Matthijs de Ligt named Rookie of the Month!
The Bayern Munich defender has been voted as the April winner, ahead of Josha Vagnoman and Jakub Kaminski.