Joao Felix showed why Atletico Madrid were happy to pay €126million to sign him with a hand in both goals as the Rojiblancos beat Juventus 2-1 in the International Champions Cup.

In a repeat of last season's thrilling Champions League round-of-16 tie that Juventus won 3-2 on aggregate, Atletico took a measure of revenge in an entertaining encounter at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, where Thomas Lemar turned Joao Felix's volley into the net to give Diego Simeone's men the lead.

The pair combined again for Atleti's second, which was scored by teenage sensation Joao Felix, whose performance full of energy and flair will have delighted his coach.

The result rounded off a satisfying pre-season for Atletico, who beat rivals Real Madrid 7-3 earlier in the ICC, while Juve coach Maurizio Sarri gave Paulo Dybala a run out after his mooted move away from the club failed to transpire.

Giorgio Chiellini's close-range volley was turned over the bar by Jan Oblak, who got down well to make a one-handed save, and Cristiano Ronaldo fired over the crossbar from the edge of the box as Juventus enjoyed a positive start.

But Atletico punished the Bianconeri's wastefulness after 23 minutes when Joao Felix met Kieran Trippier's cross with a side-footed volley that deflected off Lemar's thigh on its way past Wojciech Szczesny and into the net.

The lead lasted just six minutes as Khedira capitalised on some hesitant Atletico defending and sent a low drive into the bottom corner of Oblak's net, with Douglas Costa's step-over helping to distract the goalkeeper.

Lemar returned the favour to Joao Felix just after the half hour, floating a weighted pass into the box where the teenage forward slid in ahead of Matthijs de Ligt to score with a half-volley from 12 yards.

After Costa hit the outside of the post with a low drive early in the second half, Adrien Rabiot went even closer, crashing a thunderous effort against the upright from 20 yards.

Mario Mandzukic played in Dybala for a chance in the box 13 minutes from time but his deflected shot was saved at full stretch by Oblak, meaning Atletico entered the new season on a winning note.

Manchester United's bid to improve their backline has seen them make Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka two of the world's most-expensive defenders.

England defender Maguire has joined from Leicester City for a reported £80million, surpassing the record set by Liverpool's capture of Virgil van Dijk.

Earlier in this transfer window United spent £50m to acquire right-back Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace as they commenced a substantial rebuild of their squad.

Maguire has not cost United as much as their biggest signing Paul Pogba, who joined from Juventus in 2016 in a then-world record £89.3m deal, but he is the most expensive defender of all time.

Here, we profile the men at the back who have cost a fair whack.


HARRY MAGUIRE – Leicester City to Manchester United, £80m

The reported £80m fee is a serious outlay for a player who was playing for Hull City in the Championship three years ago.

It has been a rapid rise for Maguire, who is now first choice at the back for England alongside Manchester City defender John Stones. United will hope there is even more to come from the 26-year-old.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Southampton to Liverpool, £75m

Liverpool tried unsuccessfully to buy Van Dijk in June 2017 and were accused of tapping him up by Southampton, but the defender's absence from several matchday squads thereafter meant a departure was never far away.

The Reds gave their fans a late Christmas gift in December of the same year, confirming the Netherlands international's arrival and he has looked worth every penny since making the switch to Anfield, winning the Professional Footballers' Association Players' Player of the Year last term and helping the club clinch their sixth Champions League title.

LUCAS HERNANDEZ – Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich, £68m

Having featured as France's first-choice left-back in their triumphant 2018 World Cup campaign, it did not take long for other clubs to begin being linked with Hernandez. Bayern were reported to have things tied up with the defender by the end of the year, though it was said they were trying to avoid paying his full release clause.

As it happened, Atletico received the €80m required to trigger Lucas' exit at the end of the 2018-19 season, meaning Bayern secured themselves a player who can cover two positions for the next decade. 

MATTHIJS DE LIGT – Ajax to Juventus, £67.5m

United had been strongly linked with De Ligt earlier in the window but it was Juventus who won the race for his much-coveted signature for a fee that, with add-ons, could eventually rise to a sum similar to Van Dijk's price.

Despite still being a teenager, De Ligt's leadership qualities shone through when he was captain of the Ajax team that won a domestic double and reached the Champions League semi-finals last season.

AYMERIC LAPORTE – Athletic Bilbao to Manchester City, £57m

City had been put off by the fee Southampton wanted for Van Dijk but were more willing to part with what was - in January 2018 - a club-record £57m to sign left-sided French centre-back Laporte.

Though he curiously remains without a senior cap for Les Bleus, Laporte has become a key figure under Pep Guardiola and was City's best defender in 2018-19 as they won an unprecedented domestic treble.

BENJAMIN MENDY – Monaco to Manchester City, £51.75m

City broke the record for a defender when they signed Mendy from Monaco in July 2017, the left-back having quickly established himself as one of Europe's most exciting attacking full-backs as his side won the 2016-17 Ligue 1 title and reached that season's Champions League semi-finals.

His arrival was part of a spectacular overhaul of the City backline, which saw them spend close to £165m on three defenders and goalkeeper Ederson, but two serious knee injuries have badly hindered his time in Manchester so far. 

DAVID LUIZ – Chelsea to Paris Saint-Germain, £50m

Paris Saint-Germain paid a whopping fee to sign Brazil international David Luiz from Chelsea in 2014.

He won Ligue 1 in both of his seasons at the Parc des Princes and made it three top-flight titles in a row after he surprisingly returned to Chelsea for £34m in August 2016, claiming his first Premier League winners' medal.

KYLE WALKER – Tottenham to Manchester City, £50m

When Walker joined Spurs from hometown club Sheffield United for £5m in 2009, few would have guessed he would one day become the most expensive English player in history.

Walker, who in June signed a new long-term deal at the Etihad Stadium, quickly established himself as a key component at the back following his July 2017 arrival and he has won two Premier League titles, two EFL Cups and an FA Cup.

AARON WAN-BISSAKA – Crystal Palace to Manchester United, £50m

Walker now has company as his country's most costly player following fellow right-back Wan-Bissaka's arrival on the other side of Manchester.

Wan-Bissaka fits the mould for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who wants young players to spearhead a revival at Old Trafford, and he made 129 tackles last term, more than any other defender across the top five European leagues.

JOHN STONES – Everton to Manchester City, £47.5m

City have certainly shown a willingness to pay large amounts for English talent, with Stones joining the club from Everton in 2016.

The 25-year-old had a difficult first campaign as Guardiola's side under-performed. His displays have since improved considerably, although he largely spent the final weeks of last season among the substitutes. 

(*Prices are as reported at the time of transfers being completed.)

Ajax thrilled Europe last season with their exciting brand of attacking football and almost delivered an incredible treble.

Erik ten Hag's side won the Eredivisie and the KNVB Beker while beating Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the Champions League semi-finals, where they were seconds away from seeing off Tottenham, too.

However, as expected, Ajax have seen their most impressive performers depart in the aftermath of a sensational campaign. Frenkie de Jong linked up with Barcelona as Juve signed Matthijs de Ligt.

It appears unlikely Ajax will be able to reach the same heights again in the coming season, but they have been able to spend in the transfer market after raking in more than €150million in fees for their young talents.

Reinforcements have arrived and, with the help of Opta, we put the new-look Dutch champions under the microscope. 

 

Razvan Marin

It looks as though Ajax have found their De Jong replacement in the form of Romania midfielder Marin. Some smart forward-thinking saw a deal done for the 23-year-old to arrive from Standard Liege in April, with De Jong's switch to Barca also agreed in advance.

Marin completed 732 successful passes in the opposition half last season, the fourth most among all Belgian Pro League players.

Quincy Promes

As well as De Ligt and De Jong played last season, moves for experienced campaigners Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic were also seen as key. Ajax have gone back to the well to sign established Netherlands winger Promes from Sevilla for €15.7m.

Promes did not initially hit the ground running in LaLiga but ended the season having created 1.6 chances per 90 minutes, a tally only bettered by Pablo Sarabia among those to play 1000 minutes or more.

Lisandro Martinez

Ajax have made a number of moves in order to plug the sizeable gap left by De Ligt in the heart of their defence and one of those saw Martinez arrive from Defensa y Justicia.

Only one player completed more passes than the one-cap Argentina international (1285) in the 2018-19 Argentine Superliga.

Edson Alvarez

Another defender on board for the new season is the versatile Alvarez, who left Club America and already has 28 caps for Mexico at the tender age of 21. He appears in line for a starting role given the €15m outlay just days after De Ligt's departure.

Alvarez should certainly provide some bite, having won 105 individual duels in the 2019 Liga MX Clausura, the second most in the competition.

Kik Pierie

Pierie will also compete for minutes, though, after the youngster left Heerenveen. Ajax will hope he can be half as successful as De Jong, another who joined from an Eredivisie rival as a teenager.

The American-born Pierie, 19, played 62 times in the top flight for Heerenveen. Only Arnold Bruggink (18 years and 299 days) has made as many appearances for the club at a younger age.

Maurizio Sarri hailed Gianluigi Buffon's performance in Juventus' penalty shoot-out win over Inter, while insisting Matthijs de Ligt has no responsibility for their poor first-half display.

Buffon made three saves in a shoot-out to earn Juve a 4-3 victory on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Wednesday's International Champions Cup clash in China.

De Ligt's own goal 10 minutes into his first Bianconeri start handed Inter the lead, with the new signing turning into Juve's net from Stefano Sensi's corner.

Sarri's side were second best up until the interval but a rejuvenated second-half performance was rewarded when Cristiano Ronaldo's deflected free-kick restored parity, allowing Buffon to be the hero on penalties.

"Buffon's great strength is that he's a born fighter. He was ready when called upon and was extraordinary in the shoot-out," Sarri told Sportitalia.

"Ronaldo had the usual excellent performance. We can improve a great deal in our attacking moves and that would make it easier for him.

"We can improve, particularly on pressing high to win the ball back when defending. We must focus on defending by going forward, not allowing them to get behind us.

"It's normal that it takes a while to change that mentality. I made a mistake this morning, as I got them to have a 45-minute training session, but we felt it in this heat."

Inter coach Antonio Conte, meanwhile, claimed the Nerazzurri's new identity will soon become evident.

"I think there were improvements since the game against Manchester United [a 1-0 loss]," Conte told Inter TV. "The important thing is that the intensity gets into the minds of the players. We need to play intense football and go to press the opposition. 

"I have to consider myself very happy with the result, because I have a group of players who are working very hard. Having said that, we lost on penalties and we must always be irritated by defeat, even if it’s in a shoot-out for a friendly.

"I am starting to see glimpses of an identity and our way of taking to the field. We must continue along this path: head down, work hard. There is much to do."

Matthijs de Ligt scored an own goal on his first Juventus start but Gianluigi Buffon proved the hero for Maurizio Sarri's side as they beat Serie A rivals Inter 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the International Champions Cup.

Having come on in Juve's defeat to Tottenham, big-money signing De Ligt was handed a full debut for the Derby d'Italia encounter in China, but the occasion was marred when he diverted Stefano Sensi's 10th-minute corner beyond Samir Handanovic.

De Ligt's unfortunate opener was cancelled out midway through the second half - Cristiano Ronaldo making it two goals from two games with a deflected free-kick that looped in to restore parity midway through the second half.

Daniele Padelli brilliantly denied Ronaldo a second as penalties were required to settle the contest, but it was his counterpart Buffon - re-signed from Paris Saint-Germain - who ruled in the shoot-out.

Two Buffon saves from Andrea Ranocchia and Samuele Longo looked set to be enough to tee up victory, but after Adrien Rabiot and Federico Bernardeschi missed their penalties, Juve's veteran goalkeeper saved Borja Valero's spot-kick, with Merih Demiral sealing the win.

Ronaldo was the first to go close in Nanjing, sending a rasping strike straight at Handanovic. But it was Inter who had the lead when De Ligt was caught out from a corner, with the youngster only able to turn Sensi's delivery into his own net.

Danilo D'Ambrosio wasted a fantastic chance to extend Inter's advantage before the half hour, heading wide from close range after getting the better of Joao Cancelo.

Padelli had to be alert when Ronaldo drilled a low effort towards the near post, before Rabiot forced Inter's substitute goalkeeper into an instinctive stop. He could do nothing to deny Juve an equaliser in the 68th minute, though, as Ronaldo's free-kick deflected in off the wall.

Ronaldo looked set to double his tally after rounding Padelli soon after, but the shot-stopper made a superb recovery challenge to force penalties.

Inter's luck appeared to be in after misses from Rabiot and Bernardeschi resulted in sudden death, though Buffon stood firm to parry out Valero's tame effort, and Demiral – who replaced De Ligt at half-time – duly tucked in the winning spot-kick.

Christian Vieri believes everything is in place for new Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri to deliver success on all fronts.

Massimiliano Allegri departed at the end of last season after again failing to win the Champions League.

Former Napoli boss Sarri has arrived as Allegri's successor, with Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey joining his squad on free transfers.

Juve have also paid an initial €75million to buy Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, whose arrival addresses the loss of Andrea Barzagli to retirement.

Serie A looks set to be fascinating next term with Inter appointing Antonio Conte and both AC Milan and Roma also under new leadership.

But former Italy striker Vieri, who played for Juventus in the 1996-1997 season, expects the Bianconceri's dominance to continue.

"Juventus are already solid and have already signed De Ligt, Ramsey and Rabiot. They boast 20 other super players," Vieri told Omnisport at the Riccione event for this year's Bobo Summer Cup.

"They have Cristiano Ronaldo, so what are we talking about? They even signed [Gianluigi] Buffon as a reserve and for me he is still the best in the world - and Juventus signed him as a sub.

"Anything can happen, yes, but [Maurizio] Sarri will manage an already complete squad that's already fit to win everything. How many years in a row have they won in Italy, eight or seven? Eight!

"They signed other world-class players making a statement that goes like this: 'For the next five years we want to win everything.'"

De Ligt scored the goal that knocked Juventus out of the Champions League last term, but in 2019-20 he will be lining up for Sarri's side.

"He's big and young. He has a great future ahead of him," Vieri added. "Juventus have done well to sign someone born in 1999 who can be the best defender for the next 10 to 15 years.

"They paid him a lot, but they've proved they're ahead of the game. [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Leonardo] Bonucci can't play forever, so they already have a substitute, which is very important.

"He will struggle a bit to adapt, but that's normal. He's young, he's got time, we need to be patient."

Maurizio Sarri has told his Juventus squad they must adapt to Cristiano Ronaldo's game after hailing him as the "player who makes the difference".

The Portugal international plundered 28 goals in his debut campaign for the Bianconeri following his move from Real Madrid, guiding them to an eighth successive Serie A title.

He picked up where he left off in Juve's first pre-season game ahead of the 2019-20 season on Sunday, scoring a typically clinical goal in his side's 3-2 International Champions Cup (ICC) defeat to Tottenham.

Speaking ahead of an ICC clash against Italian rivals Inter on Wednesday, head coach Sarri made it clear Ronaldo will be the focal point of his side in the forthcoming campaign.

"He will be the player who will make the difference for us so the other 10 will have to adapt to him," Sarri told a media conference.

"During this tour he will play mostly as a left offensive striker, knowing very well he likes to move more central next to the other striker.

"As a team we have to be quick to adapt to his movements since he is capable of making the difference and he will do it for sure. In the first game, he scored and had a further couple of chances."

The defeat to Tottenham also saw the debut of Matthijs de Ligt, the new signing from Ajax who arrived last week for an initial fee of €75million.

Sarri described the 19-year-old as a "phenomenal prospect" but would not be drawn on whether he will command an immediate place in his preferred starting XI.

"De Ligt is a phenomenal prospect," Sarri said. "He is a 19-year-old kid who has already been captain in an important club like Ajax so he is an important prospect.

"I don’t know whether he will stay on the bench or not. If not, on the bench there will be other important defenders like [Leonardo] Bonucci, [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Daniele] Rugani."

Ajax have completed the €15million signing of Edson Alvarez from Club America, helping to address the loss of Matthijs de Ligt.

Club captain De Ligt completed his long-awaited move to Serie A champions Juventus last week, with the Italians paying an initial €75m for the 19-year-old.

Ajax have wasted little time in spending some of that money on 21-year-old Mexico international Alvarez, who has signed a deal that will keep him at the club until June 2024.

The Dutch giants, winners of a domestic double last term as well as reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, have been busy in the transfer market during the close season.

Alvarez follows Quincy Promes, Lisandro Magallan, Lisandro Martinez and Razvan Marin in signing for Erik ten Hag's squad.

Matthijs de Ligt was left bemused by transfer stories circulating about him before his move to Juventus, particularly one concerning Manchester United and fears about his weight.

The Netherlands international completed a move to Juventus on Thursday in a deal that could cost the Serie A champions €85.5million.

De Ligt, 19, had been one of the most in-demand young players in the world following his exceptional performances as captain of Ajax, who won the Eredivisie and reached the Champions League semi-finals last season.

He was linked with a possible move to United until a story emerged in the Daily Mirror suggesting a scout had warned the Red Devils off making a bid as De Ligt would be susceptible to gaining weight as he got older, like his father.

De Ligt says such claims left him truly baffled, even amid the persistent speculation over where he would be playing football next season.

"Every day, there was something new," he told Voetbal International. "Suddenly, even my father was too fat and that's why one of the clubs wouldn't want me. That makes you go, 'Come on, man...'"

There was another rumour De Ligt turned down Paris Saint-Germain because he wanted a higher wage than Kylian Mbappe, something he previously told Algemeen Dagblad was "insane".

"Money played no role at all in my choice for a new club," he said. "Everyone who knows me, knows that. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I will respect that, but some people were saying things like that [PSG story] very easily."

De Ligt is the latest high-profile player to secure a big-money transfer through the hugely successful agent Mino Raiola, who counts Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti among his clients.

"He has a lot of experience," De Ligt said of Raiola. "I think there may be a certain negative image of him in Holland, but I certainly don't experience it that way.

"I think if you ask all of his players if Mino does a good job for them, everyone would say yes. That's the most important thing. It's not about what other people say about him, it's about what he can do for me."

New Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has welcomed speculation that Neymar could make a dramatic return to the LaLiga champions.

De Jong, 22, was signed by Barca from Ajax in January for a reported €75million, but only made the move at the end of the season.

Neymar has reportedly told Paris Saint-Germain that he wants to leave the club during the close season, two years after his world-record €222million transfer from Barca.

The Catalan club appear to be keen on bringing the Brazilian superstar back to Camp Nou and De Jong says he would relish the opportunity to play alongside him.

"Of course I would like to play with Neymar," he told Sport. "I think he's a really good player but it isn't up to me to decide if he comes to Barcelona or not."

De Jong will be tasked with supplying a mouth-watering attack in the 2019-20 season, led by Lionel Messi, and the Netherlands international is looking forward to teaming up with a player he considers to be the very best.

"I think he's the best player in the world," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing with all the guys, not only with Messi."

Barca were linked with a move for De Jong's former Ajax team-mate, Matthijs de Ligt, but the 19-year-old opted to join Serie A champions Juventus.

De Jong says he would have loved De Ligt to have joined him at Barca but believes he has made a positive move.

Asked if he was disappointed by De Ligt's decision, De Jong said: "No, I'm not disappointed. Not at all. Of course, I'd be happier if he had decided to join Barcelona, but it's his decision and he made it with his family, his agent and girlfriend.

"I'm happy for him. He's made a great move. I would rather see him at Barcelona but Juventus is a good move for him."

Cristiano Ronaldo "can play anywhere" for Juventus but Maurizio Sarri plans to return his superstar forward to a familiar role at the outset of the season.

Portugal legend Ronaldo moved between multiple attacking positions in his first campaign with Juve, playing on the flanks, through the middle and in partnership with Paulo Dybala.

But the 34-year-old is set to initially be given a more defined brief under new boss Sarri, a coach noted for being unfailingly faithful to his favoured 4-3-3 system.

For Ronaldo that means moving slightly wider, to a role he performed with distinction at Manchester United and Real Madrid.

"I'm going to first use Cristiano on the left in attack," Sarri said.

"But really, with the quality he has, he can play anywhere.

"He's very experienced and has won everything, individually and collectively."

Sarri's first chance to experiment comes against Tottenham in the International Champions Cup in Singapore.

The Italian confirmed new signing Matthijs de Ligt will "certainly play part of the game" in a bid to quickly integrate the Netherlands international into his new surroundings.

De Ligt, 19, signed from Ajax this week in an €85.5million deal despite reported interest from Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.

The defender denied being swayed by the wage on offer in Turin, though, slamming reports which claimed otherwise.

"At a certain point it was a bit tiring [hearing all the reports]," he told Dutch newspaper AD.

"The most insane thing I read was that I wouldn't go to PSG because I wanted to earn more than Kylian Mbappe. What nonsense.

"Mino [Raiola] is my agent, he deals with the business side, but that only mattered after my sporting choice was made."

Matthijs de Ligt denied Cristiano Ronaldo convinced him to join Juventus but cited Maurizio Sarri as an important factor in his €85.5million move.

Netherlands defender De Ligt spoke to the media and was presented with the number four shirt on Friday, 24 hours after completing a high-profile transfer from Ajax.

The 19-year-old attracted interest from Barcelona, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain but confirmed his heart was already set on Juve by the time he crossed with paths with Ronaldo in Portugal last month.

They locked horns in the Nations League final, during which the Bianconeri superstar told centre-back De Ligt to choose Turin as his next destination.

"At that moment I was pretty sure it was Juventus but obviously it was nice that someone big like Cristiano Ronaldo asked me if I wanted to join," De Ligt said.

"It was a big compliment but it was not the difference between me joining and not joining."

Rather, De Ligt's interest in a switch to Serie A stemmed from his deep-rooted admiration of Italian defenders, including former Juve man and World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro.

Sarri's tactical approach runs counter to many of the country's established ideals but proved every bit as enticing for De Ligt, a player educated in possession football at Ajax.

"I spoke to him on the phone really briefly just to get to know each other," the ex-Ajax captain said.

"He's one of the reasons I wanted to come to Juventus because I heard a lot of good stories about him, the way he plays, the philosophy he has - attacking football - the defending line and how he prepares them.

"Obviously there was a big reason to come here."

Already considered one of Europe's finest in his position, the teenager is now seeking to accelerate his already advanced development as part of a star-studded dressing room.

"Ajax was a younger environment and here I hope that I can learn from great champions like [Giorgio] Chiellini, Gianluigi Buffon, Cristiano and many others," he said.

Juventus have won the race for Matthijs de Ligt and handed Maurizio Sarri an €85.5million asset set to immediately challenge for a starting spot.

The Netherlands international commanded the attention of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and more before agreeing a five-year contract in Turin.

De Ligt, 19, captained Ajax with distinction in Europe and the Eredivisie last term and compiled a set of statistics consistent with a player who could change the look of Serie A's strongest defence. 

Our dive into the Opta data illustrates why one half of Juve's established centre-back pairing might be looking over his shoulder.

Bonucci battle brewing

De Ligt has walked through the doors at Allianz Stadium in rather more triumphant fashion than Leonardo Bonucci did almost 12 months ago.

The Italy international returned from an ill-fated stint at AC Milan and resumed his partnership with Giorgio Chiellini at the heart of the four-man defence regularly employed by Massimiliano Allegri.

The results were not as intended.

Juve conceded more goals – 30 – in Serie A than in any of their previous seven title-winning campaigns, and were breached twice in the Champions League on four separate occasions.

De Ligt could apply serious pressure to the 32-year-old's position.

New boss Sarri favours a 4-3-3 system and his shiny new acquisition outperformed fellow right-footer Bonucci in most key defensive measures last term.

Across all competitions, De Ligt won more duels (5.48), aerial contests (3.77) and tackles (0.61) per 90 minutes, while also completing a greater average number of clearances (3.95) and recoveries (6.53).

Dwarfed in each category by the Dutchman, Bonucci ranked last behind Chiellini, Daniele Rugani and the now-retired Andrea Barzagli for duels (3.02), aerial contests (1.75) and clearances (2.86).

 

Aerial prowess an alternative weapon

Sarri's Chelsea were accused of being a one-dimensional team that sought only to break opposition sides down through often tedious passing sequences.

Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain floundered in their attempts to spearhead the front three and the Blues scored the fewest goals of all top-six sides in the Premier League.

Tormenting defences domestically should be no trouble for Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Moise Kean and Juve's high-class attacking cohort, but Sarri would be wise to seek out a variety of scoring sources for an assault on multiple fronts.

In De Ligt, he has an aerial ace capable of climbing above any pack.

The 19-year-old conjured seven goals for Ajax last season: three in the Eredivisie, one against rivals Feyenoord in the KNVB Beker, and a further three in the Champions League.

Six of those were headed, including the towering effort which knocked Juve out of Europe while he also nodded an equaliser for Netherlands in their Nations League victory over England.

Bonucci, scorer of three goals, was the only Bianconeri defender to manage more than two.

Crucial interventions in big matches could tip the selection scale in De Ligt's favour.

 

Durability threatens established order

In the wake of Barzagli's retirement and the end of Martin Caceres' short-term loan, Juve reinforced their defensive stocks by signing Turkey international Merih Demiral from Sassuolo.

The 21-year-old will almost certainly find his place in the pecking order behind Rugani, a favourite of Sarri's since their time together at Empoli.

Bringing in a fifth centre-back to compete for one of two positions could lead the Italian champions to consider replenishing a diminished bank balance.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have reportedly shown interested in Bonucci, whose future is at least less certain than that of captain Chiellini.

What is in no doubt is De Ligt's readiness to carry the load required of a regular starter.

Throughout a demanding 2018-19 season, the reigning Golden Boy award winner turned out more times (55) than Chiellini and Rugani combined. Bonucci, Juve's top appearance-maker, started 14 fewer games.

Sarri demonstrated appreciation for a high degree of availability as he consistently paired David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger together at Stamford Bridge until a knee injury removed the latter from calculations.

Now, armed with hard evidence of De Ligt's excellence, the Bianconeri boss might forge a fresh partnership in Turin to herald the beginning of a new era.

Matthijs de Ligt's protracted move to Juventus has finally been completed, with the defender becoming one of football's priciest teenagers.

The Ajax captain will play for the Serie A champions next term after Juve saw off competition from clubs including Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Manchester United.

De Ligt's star rose last term with Ajax reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, as well as claiming a domestic double under coach Erik ten Hag.

But he now faces justifying a fee of €75million, potentially rising to €85.5m, that makes him the most expensive under-20 defender of all time. Omnisport takes a look at the 10 most expensive teenage transfers and how they fared.

Kylian Mbappe: Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain - €180m

Likely to remain the world's most expensive teenage signing for some time, Kylian Mbappe is already well on the way to justifying the €180m outlay PSG made to prise him away from Monaco two years ago. Mbappe had fired Monaco to a shock Ligue 1 title triumph before departing and his goals have continued to flow in the French capital with 33 in just 29 Ligue 1 games last season. Still just 20, Mbappe has arguably eclipsed team-mate Neymar already, while he has won a World Cup with France. Pele has acknowledged comparisons with the forward, who looks a certain Ballon d'Or winner in the near future. It would take a world-record fee to buy Mbappe, but he has hinted he could be open to leaving PSG.

Joao Felix: Benfica to Atletico Madrid - €126m

Potentially rivalling Mbappe for top individual honours in the years to come could be Joao Felix, who shoulders the burden of replacing Antoine Griezmann at Atletico Madrid, assuming the forward forces through his desired move away from the Wanda Metropolitano. Joao Felix hit 20 goals in all competitions for Benfica last term, three of those strikes coming in the Europa League, to announce himself among the world's top talents. It remains to be seen whether he is ready for the step up, with Atletico gambling €126m that the 19-year-old is a star of the future.


Matthijs de Ligt: Ajax to Juventus - €85.5m

Barcelona were linked with De Ligt, having already sealed a deal for club and country team-mate Frenkie de Jong, but the Ajax captain has instead opted for Serie A. There, he will work under the new Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri with European success demanded after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo failed to deliver the prized Champions League. Domestic dominance is virtually assured, but De Ligt will have to show he can slot straight into one of the planet's tightest defences. A high-profile mistake against England in the Nations League semi-finals showed De Ligt is not yet the complete package, but Italy could be the ideal finishing school.


Anthony Martial: Monaco to Manchester United - €60m

Eyebrows were raised when United parted with €60m for Martial in 2015, with one British newspaper describing the deal as a "waste of money" in a back-page splash. Martial has not quite proved that assessment wrong, although he scored 10 goals in 27 Premier League appearances last term. At 23 he has further development to come and the departure of Jose Mourinho, whose lack of faith in the France forward appeared clear, might well help him make a jump to the next level under successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.


Rodrygo Goes: Santos to Real Madrid - €45m

Real Madrid have been signing young talent in recent seasons in a departure from their Galactico-focused days, although the signing of Eden Hazard and a potential deal for Paul Pogba may change things. Rodrygo Goes will link up with Zinedine Zidane's squad for 2019-20 having remained on loan with Santos after completing a transfer to the LaLiga giants. The 18-year-old is full of promise and Madrid will hope he can be their Neymar.


Vinicius Junior: Flamengo to Real Madrid - €45m

Rodrygo is following in the footsteps of fellow Brazilian Vinicius Junior, who was a rare shining light for Madrid last term, scoring two LaLiga goals. It remains to be seen where Zidane sees Rodrygo and Vinicius fitting in, especially as Hazard seems certain to take up one of the attacking positions and Luka Jovic has also arrived from Eintracht Frankfurt to compete for a striking berth. Fitting everyone in seems set to be a challenge, but Vinicius could be Madrid's future along with Rodrygo.


Luke Shaw: Southampton to Manchester United - €37.5m

Like Martial, Luke Shaw is another player who seems to have laboured under a large price tag at times – which perhaps should be a warning sign for new arrival Aaron Wan-Bissaka after the 21-year-old joined from Crystal Palace. Shaw also had a fractious relationship with Mourinho but made the United left-back spot his own with 29 Premier League starts in 2018-19. The 23-year-old will hope to make further progress this term, but did not make the cut for Gareth Southgate's England squad for the Nations League Finals, with Ben Chilwell and Danny Rose preferred.


Wayne Rooney: Everton to Manchester United - €37m

Wayne Rooney certainly repaid his fee – he was British football's most expensive teenager – becoming United's all-time leading goalscorer and winning five Premier League titles at the club, as well as the 2007-08 Champions League. Rooney will go down as a United great despite affairs such as agitating for a move and falling out with Alex Ferguson. Rooney dropped out of favour in the latter years of his time at Old Trafford and was also sidelined for England, with a return to boyhood club Everton failing to spark. But joining MLS strugglers DC United has been a clever move and Rooney, now 33, is inspiring their rise.


Renato Sanches: Benfica to Bayern Munich - €35m

Bayern thought they were signing a player who would become one of the era's dominant midfielders when they snapped up Renato Sanches from Benfica, but the transfer has not worked out at all. Bayern bought Sanches before he won Euro 2016 with Portugal but, three years later, that remains the highlight of his career. Sanches flopped in a loan spell with Swansea City in the Premier League and seems surplus to requirements at Bayern. The 21-year-old desperately needs to kickstart his career with a move away and has been linked with Turkish giants Fenerbahce.


Gabriel Jesus: Palmeiras to Manchester City - €32m

Handed City's number nine shirt ahead of the 2019-20 season, Gabriel Jesus seems set for a defining campaign. At times after his arrival from Palmeiras the Brazil striker – who just helped his side win the Copa America on home soil – seemed to be preferred to Sergio Aguero by City boss Pep Guardiola, but the tables were turned last term as the Argentina attacker finally won his manager's total faith. Jesus was restricted to just eight Premier League starts in 2018-19 but still scored seven times and he was picked over Aguero for the FA Cup final demolition of Watford, in which he scored a brace.

One of the more prolonged transfer sagas of the close-season is over after Juventus completed the purchase of highly rated Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax.

The 19-year-old is regarded as one of the finest prospects in world football and will cost Juve a total of €85.5million, with the Serie A champions beating off competition from a host of major European clubs for his signature.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona and Liverpool were all strongly linked with the imposing centre-back, but he will instead bolster Juve's already impressive squad.

Juve have moved with impressive decisiveness in the transfer market in recent times and new coach Maurizio Sarri has a particularly strong array of defenders to choose from next term following confirmation of De Ligt's arrival.

Below, we examined what Sarri's squad looks like after De Ligt's signing, what further changes could be made and how the team might start the season...

GOALKEEPER AND DEFENCE – An end of an era?

There have been changes aplenty in this department at Juve recently. Wojciech Szczesny can expect to remain first choice between the posts, but the return of Gianluigi Buffon on a year-long contract will keep the Pole on his toes.

One of the most surprising things about Juve's close season is their apparent willingness to offload Joao Cancelo, a standout performer last term. He is being strongly linked with Manchester City, as Danilo seems likely to go the other way.

Nevertheless, Juve's defence has been suitably bolstered. With Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci getting on in years, the sought-after De Ligt, Cristian Romero and Merih Demiral provide long-term quality and youthfulness at centre-back (albeit Romero will remain at Genoa on loan next season], while 19-year-old Luca Pellegrini offers competition at left-back.

Sarri's biggest decision will revolve around his centre-back choices. Having worked with Daniele Rugani at Empoli, he might see more action and De Ligt can surely expect to feature regularly.

An end to the Chiellini-Bonucci dynasty might not be far away.

 

MIDFIELD – Big roles for Pjanic and Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are the new midfield arrivals and both join with massive expectations – particularly the former, who many feel could be Juve's answer to the Marek Hamsik of Sarri's Napoli side.

Sarri's favoured 4-3-3 dictates one of the midfield trio will sit deeper. He likes that player to be very comfortable on the ball and a fine passer, meaning Miralem Pjanic looks set to fill the 'Jorginho role', as the Bosnian appears rather more suited than Sami Khedira and Emre Can.

Given Rabiot's lack of action over the past year at Paris Saint-Germain, he looks to have the most work to do to break into the starting XI, while Rodrigo Bentancur's fine development means he is likely to become essential.

However, should Juve pull off the signing of Paul Pogba from Manchester United, he would surely be an automatic pick on the left of the central trident.

 

ATTACK – Departures galore expected

Juve's options in attack are numerous, and several of them were being linked with moves away even before Sarri's appointment was confirmed.

Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic are all reportedly for sale, while Gonzalo Higuain's situation is by no means clear.

The Argentinian excelled under Sarri at Napoli and joined him at Chelsea in January, but he underwhelmed in the Premier League. As such, it is difficult to see how he fits in at Juve, but he and the coach clearly have a rapport.

Federico Bernardeschi and Cristiano Ronaldo are untouchable, while Moise Kean showed plenty of promise towards the end of last season, but if all of Sarri's expendables leave, they will be left a little short on the flanks.

Few wingers have been linked with the Bianconeri, though they are said to hold an interest in Callum Hudson-Odoi, Federico Chiesa and Burnley youngster Dwight McNeil.

 

POSSIBLE JUVENTUS XI FOR 2019-20

Szczesny; De Sciglio, De Ligt, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Pjanic, Ramsey, Bentancur; Bernardeschi, Ronaldo, Mandzukic

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