The Dutchman was taken aback by a fellow countryman’s decision to complete a move to Italy from Ajax last year
De Ligt came through Ajax‘s famed academy and enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence at a very young age, earning a promotion to the first-team squad soon after his 17th birthday.
He then became the club’s youngest captain as an 18-year-old and last season played a pivotal role in Ajax’s journey to the semi-finals of the Champions League, before they were eventually eliminated in dramatic fashion by Tottenham.
An impressive physical specimen but also technically gifted for a centre-back, De Ligt appeared to have a litany of clubs vying for his signature last year, with Barca – who signed his Ajax team-mate Frenkie de Jong – seemingly the ideal fit.
Manchester City, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were also linked with De Ligt, but Juve made their move to inject developing talent into their ageing backline, and De Boer concedes Turin was not the destination he had in mind for his compatriot.
“Clubs closest to the Ajax system like, Man City and Barcelona were interested,” the ex-Ajax midfielder told Gazzetta dello Sport .
“It would have been easier to adapt. I thought he would have made a different choice, but I respect the decision very much.”
De Ligt hasn’t quite managed to live up to expectations during his first full season in Serie A, but did start to produce his best form on a more consistent basis following the winter break.
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Despite making a choice that might have taken the 20-year-old out of his comfort zone, De Boer remains confident he will become an era-defining defender.
“I was working in the academy of Ajax, I immediately liked his character: serious, intelligent, kind, he never complains, he works hard and learns,” De Boer added.
“And then he always had the skills of the great defender. He understood where the danger was coming… I remember him at under-14 level, when he returned from the following year 30 centimetres taller. He will be one of the best of this era, sure.”