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Lippi says De Ligt ahead of Baresi, Maldini and Nesta for his age

Juve getting a phenomenon in De Ligt, claims Lippi

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Matthijs de Ligt's development has put him on course to be as good as Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta, according to Marcello Lippi.

Juventus are set to sign "a phenomenon" if they complete a deal to bring Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt to Turin, according to former Bianconeri boss Marcello Lippi.

The Netherlands international has been strongly linked with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain but reports suggest the Italian champions are close to finalising a deal that will earn the 19-year-old €12million per year for the next five years.

Lippi, who guided Juventus to five Scudetti and the Champions League during two trophy-laden spells as head coach, said De Ligt's performances for Ajax over the last three years have put him on course to emulate legendary Italian defenders like Alessandro Nesta, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini if he opts to play in Serie A.

"From Nesta to Baresi, from Maldini to [Ciro] Ferrara, from [Fabio] Cannavaro to [Marco] Materazzi, I have seen so many exceptional defenders, but never one like this in relation to age," Lippi told Tuttosport.

De Ligt can be the difference-maker for Juventus

"Yes, he can make the difference."

Lippi said he was close to a return to Serie A himself after Eusebio Di Francesco was sacked by Roma in March, but revealed he opted to remain in charge of the China national team.

The 71-year-old is in his second spell as China coach following his reappointment in May, and intends to end his coaching career with Team Dragon.

"I was close to Roma several times in my career, including recently," said Lippi.

"I was about to go there when Eusebio Di Francesco was fired.

"They called me and asked if I was available to be the coach of Roma, but I said no. I thanked them, saying that my time in club football is over.

"After China, I am going to retire."