February 14, The Athletic UK’s famous German reporter Honey Stone exclusively interviewed Bayern
Central defender De Ligt.
Is it a burden for Bayern to make him the leader of the defense?
This opinion expressed to me by (Bayern) is exactly what I like to hear.
I’m a good centre-half, but I can help the team by running the defense, helping the others and making sure we stay focused.
They said they might have misjudged a bit earlier, and then they saw that I was a very capable leader, and I’m glad they saw me that way.
About Ten Hag
He was the most important coach I had growing up.
Even at 18, he saw me as someone who could lead a team, someone who could lead by example, someone who would be a good captain.
(Under ten Hag) I gradually adapted to the role of captain.
I became more confident and realized I could make a difference.
It really helped me grow better and mature mentally.
Regarding some of the outside criticism of him (including Van Basten’s accusation as a senior)
I was 19, I was captain of Ajax and I felt a lot of pressure… the truth is I was young.
I went from being a kid who did everything well at Ajax to being a defender at Juventus, where every little thing I did wrong was noticed by everyone.
I slowly changed my mentality and understood what kind of player I am and what I can do for the team with my own strength.
You can’t ask me to score brilliantly every time, or pass the perfect pass every time.
That’s not to say I can’t, it’s not my responsibility.
My natural quality is always focused, ready to fight, commanding, as consistent as possible, not trying to show everybody what I can do with the ball, or what I can do well with the ball.
You need a player who always hits a six-and-a-half or seven out of 10, not sometimes an eight and then a four.
I feel like every game, I’m getting better, I’m getting more experienced.
About Juventus Time
I learned a lot from the three coaches at Juventus.
Sarri’s marking, Pirlo’s backcourt defense, Allegri’s pure defense.
He’s smart, he’s strong, he’s tactically educated… He always said to me: ‘If you can combine your physicality with your tactical sense, you can go to the next level’.
He’s a very, very good defender, one of the best in the world.
I am grateful to all those who have taught me.
But in the end, the most you learn from yourself is having different experiences in different situations.
It makes you a better player.
Ten Hag will always have a special place in Bayern’s heart.
He was really happy for me and ten Hag came to congratulate me when I moved in the summer window.
I also spoke to Robben about the club a few years ago.
But this time, I don’t need to ask anyone’s opinion, I know that my heart belongs to Munich.
About playing style
In Italy, the defenders covered the fewest kilometers in the team, but in Germany it was different: I almost ran the most.
With my strength and speed, I can crush opponents, but I’m not the type of defender who can simply run past everyone.
In other words, I rely heavily on my mental strengths during the game, and my greatest strength is reading the game and anticipating what’s going to happen.
The top league is already a strong burden on the physical level, but for defenders, the psychological pressure is even more tormented.
A defender may play well for the entire game, but suddenly makes a mistake at the last minute, and everyone will only remember that mistake… One game every three days may not be the worst situation, and it is often difficult for defenders to maintain their strength in training.
I was too focused on myself and the team, so I can’t tell you after the game which player played well or not.
At one point, someone said to me: ‘Wow, the fans were so loud today’ and I said, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t even hear them.
These advantages and disadvantages on the spiritual level are double-edged swords, and they will also affect you in many cases.
About reading and relaxing
I’ve read the autobiographies of Mertesacker, Stam, Saul Campbell, Terry, you name it.
These reading experiences help me improve my game because I can draw on their experience.
They sometimes say things that make you feel like you’re not alone.
Like when you’re young, if you make a mistake, you feel like it’s the end of the world.
But they’ll say: ‘No, it’s not.
It really isn’t’.
I learned a lot from it.
We have so many good players who are skilled, quick and good with their feet.
My role now is to maintain the balance of offense and defense.
If you have 11 players attacking it will be a disaster, if you have 11 players just defending it will be a disaster.
You have to have this combination.
It was a bit like that at Ajax, me and Tagliafico at the back.
I love it and I feel the same way at Bayern.
I’m being honest, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough.
Every season, I want to do better than the previous season.
It’s good to look at certain stats – how many sprints, how many duels won, but central defenders