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Bayern Munich’s Matthijs de Ligt reading stories from center-back legends to help hone his craft

De Ligt has been studying some of the greats to help continue his development as a world class center back.

Paris Saint-Germain v FC Bayern M¸nchen: Round of 16 Leg One - UEFA Champions League Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Since joining from AFC Ajax during the summer transfer window, Matthijs de Ligt has become one of Julian Nagelsmann’s go-to center-backs at Bayern Munich. Alongside Dayot Upamecano, they’ve developed a center-back partnership that’s looking even more solidified with each passing match.

Of course, Lucas Hernandez had been on a decent run of form for Bayern before suffering an ACL tear at the World Cup on duty with France, but De Ligt’s growth at Bayern is more pronounced since he just signed this past summer. Getting straight into the action during a pre-season friendly win in Washington, DC just hours after officially completing his move from Ajax perhaps set the tone for how his Bayern tenure was going to pan out.

De Ligt has also been reading stories from some of football’s legendary center backs to help fine-tune his craft, as he recently revealed in an interview with The Athletic’s Raphael Honigstein. Having captained Ajax at the ripe age of 19, there’s no doubting De Ligt’s leadership qualities, and how quickly he’s integrated into Nagelsmann’s systems at Bayern is equally as impressive. His most recent exploits came in the form of a solid performance in Bayern’s 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16 (leg 1), where he was able to help keep Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, and Kylian Mbappe (partially) at bay.

“I’ve read autobiographies from Per Mertesacker, Jaap Stam, Sol Campbell, John Terry... It helps me improve my game, drawing on their experiences. They sometimes say things that make you think you’re not alone,” de Ligt told Honigstein (via @iMiaSanMia).

Much like Bayern’s Hinrunde run of four matches without a win in the Bundesliga, De Ligt is no stranger to having made mistakes so far this season. During that run in the Bundesliga, it was De Ligt’s late concession of a penalty that gifted VfB Stuttgart a 2-2 draw at the Allianz Arena when Serhou Guirassy stepped up and converted the spot kick that he had won himself. Had de Ligt not given up the penalty with his outstretched leg, Bayern could’ve been two point better off by now with a bit more breathing room over second-placed Union Berlin.

Despite some of the individual mistakes, d\De Ligt said that being able to learn from some of the legends of the game by reading their stories has helped him learn to deal with individual mistakes. “For example, if you make a mistake, you feel as if it’s the end of the world when you’re young. But they would say, ‘No, it isn’t. It really isn’t’. I’ve learned a lot from that,” he explained.

Bayern Munich - Viktoria Pilsen Photo by Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

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