So, you might have missed it, but Matthijs de Ligt made his debut for Oranje last Saturday. The horrendous – like, really, really horrendous – team lost to Bulgaria and De Ligt had a very rough game. Which means he’s facing one of the biggest challenges he will ever face. All thanks to Danny f*cking Blind.
Blind, who has been completely and totally inept at being in any official position that not includes him actually physically defending, decided to take a risk and not only call up De Ligt, but also actually playing him. Let’s talk about the calling up first. I agree Matthijs is an enormous talent, but he’s younger than Cruyff was when he was first called up. Younger than Van Basten. Younger than Bergkamp. Younger than anyone post-World War II. That’s insane. I get there were some injuries in defense, but Stefano Denswil does perfectly fine for almost two years now in a league that is better than the Dutch Eredivisie (yeah, I went there).
So, concluded, he shouldn’t have been called up in the first place. Second of all, why even play him? I can only think of one reason: Blind wanted to appeal to the basic Dutch football-supporter, who only enjoy seeing him without actually paying any attention to the logistics and reasons behind that choice. Wesley Hoedt is a starter at Lazio in the Calcio A, alongside Stefan de Vrij. Yet he was left on the bench, while a seventeen year-old, who only graduated high school last year, started.
I like De Ligt. Mainly because he’s the first Ajax-player who’s actually younger than me (two months, admittedly, but still). He has shown to be a real talent, and a very down-to-earth guy who seems capable of being thoughtful about his own performances. He would have understood if he didn’t play any game this week. If he had just trained against Arjen Robben and Memphis Depay for a week. That would have been a great learning experience for him, especially after training against Matteo Cassierra and Betrand Traoré for about a year now (which must be really, really boring).
Now, he’s been humiliated by some Bulgarian farmer who plays football on the side, but even more so by Danny Blind. The ex-coach decided to substitute him at half time, for another defender. By doing so, he not only confirmed to the world he has no clue whatsoever about what to do when you’re in charge of a professional football team, he also took a steaming pile of sh*t on De Ligt’s confidence and attitude. It’s a giant middle finger, and it affects anyone who is confronted with that, especially at that age.
And now, Matthijs faces the biggest challenge he will face in his entire career. Does he build on the game against Kopenhagen, or does he get lost in a spiral after a terrible week that he should never have had. I think Matthijs to be strong enough to make it happen, but it will be something unlike he has ever faced before (in his two month-career) and probably unlike something he will ever face. Let’s show Danny was right to take the risk, and wrong to let you down like that.
Oh, and Louis: please come back. We miss you. You can even build the team bus!