Giorgio Chiellini's anticipated return is a big blow to Matthijs De Ligt (Opinion)
- Giorgio Chiellini is close to making a return to the squad.
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After eliminating the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus in the Champions League last season, Ajax fell to Tottenham Hotspur in the semifinals but that didn't deprive them of plaudits.
They finished the term claiming both the Eredivisie title and the domestic cup. The players made a name for themselves, and numerous big clubs across the continent sought their signatures during the summer transfer window.
Players like Lasse Schone, Frenkie de Jong, Kasper Dolberg, Matthijs De Lgt, and Maximilian Wober were all snapped up amidst other departures. Meanwhile, as the main figures in the team, De Ligt and De Jong carried the most attention when they took the exit route from the Johan Cruyff Arena.
De Jong was the first to leave. Barcelona completed the signing of the midfielder in January but allowed him to remain with Ajax till the summer. The 22-year-old became a vital figure immediately he arrived at Camp Nou. He slotted in straight into the Blaugrana midfield setup alongside Arthur Melo and Sergio Busquets. He's bagged 33 appearances for the club so far, contributing two goals and four assists. Barca have great hope, expectations, and plans for the midfielder.
However, his compatriot didn't get such privileges or a smooth transition when he arrived at Juventus. De Ligt scored an own goal just 10 minutes into his debut during a preseason clash with Inter Milan.
By keeping him on the bench throughout the 90 minutes of Juve's Serie A opener against Parma, Maurizio Sarri sent a clear message across - the experienced pair of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini remain his preferred options at centre back. De Ligt got frustrated and revealed it shortly after the match.
However, fortune came the Dutchman's way when Chiellini suffered a long-term knee injury in training that has kept him out of action since September 2019. In his absence, De Ligt got the chance to feature more regularly for the Old Lady. He's bagged 24 appearances across all competitions so far. Nevertheless, it doesn't look like that will last long as a twist is expected to surface in the next few days.
Chiellini is closing in on a full recovery. Maurizio Sarri revealed that during a press conference some days ago. The veteran centre-back has already started participating in light training with the group and should be ready to return to the pitch as soon as possible. That comes as bad news for De Ligt.
When the 35-year-old returns, it is highly likely that the Dutchman would be relegated to a bit-part role. Sarri favours the experience of Chiellini and Bonucci at the heart of the defence. Known for his toughness in handling such situations, it doesn't look like that would change anytime soon.
Throughout his spell at Chelsea, the Italian kept his poster boy, Jorginho, in defensive midfield ahead of Ngolo Kante. He refused to alter that decision despite the criticism he received from the media and the Blues faithful. As a result, patience appears the best option for De Ligt in this situation. He is still a work in progress and would be treated as such under the former Napoli manager.
Chiellini is already in the twilight of his career. He only has a few years left. The Dutchman is one for the future, and he just needs to wait for a year or two to become an undisputed option in the Bianconeri backline. Before then, he has a few games to impress ahead of the Juventus captain's return to the starting lineup.Published 18 Feb 2020, 19:50 IST