Matthijs de Ligt Juventus 2019-20Getty Images

Ake: De Ligt is a lot like Van Dijk

Nathan Ake thinks that Juventus' Matthijs de Ligt has all the same gifts as Ballon d'Or frontrunner Virgil van Dijk and hopes the Liverpool star goes onto be crowned the world's best player.

The Bournemouth defender has played alongside both of his fellow countrymen, with De Ligt also making the shortlist for football's most coveted individual award.

Van Dijk is more likely to lift the trophy, however, with the winner set to be announced in Paris on December 2. 

Article continues below

With the Netherlands on the verge of qualifying for Euro 2020, Ake joins up with his fellow Dutch stars this week and is excited by the defensive strength on show within the camp.

“De Ligt is still so young but he has played so many games in top-flight football and for the Dutch national team,” Ake told Goal at the London launch of Need for Speed Heat. “It's amazing what he is doing at the moment.

“When you go to a new country and a new club, especially a big club like Juventus, and you're 19-20 years old, it's going to be a change. He scored [against Torino], which is really good for him, but everyone has full confidence in him. As you can see, he's a great player.

“He's quick, strong for his age, very good in the air and on the ball he is very good. He scores so many from set-pieces so he's got a lot of the same attributes as Van Dijk."

The Netherlands need one point from their next two games - Northern Ireland and Estonia - to qualify for Euro 2020 after missing out on the World Cup 18 months ago.

Van Dijk will lead his nation into those games as captain and Ake explained why the Liverpool star deserves to be named in the same breath as the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“The way he has been playing in recent seasons in crazy,” Ake said. “He has made Liverpool and the Dutch team very good sides – it's his presence, leadership qualities and the way he has been playing over the last few years.

Virgil van Dijk Goal 50Goal

“He deserves all the praise he's getting. In my opinion, he 100% deserves to be among those players that are competing for the Ballon d'Or. Forwards score goals and stuff like that but he helps his teams in other ways.

“He has been one of the main guys making sure Liverpool get clean sheets. He helped them reach and win the Champions League final. He's the captain of the national team. He's such a big presence.

“He's been an important player in every squad he's been in. He has a massive personality but he is such a nice guy off the pitch. He's calm and chilled. When he's on the pitch, he's a demanding leader. He's not scary if you know him, but if you don't know him... maybe!

“Our strikers would say that it's very tough to play against him because he's strong, fast and reads the game very well.”

Another talent making a name for himself in the Dutch ranks is PSV's 20-year-old striker Donyell Malen, who has bagged 17 goals for club and country this term.

Ake played alongside the youngster as he scored on his debut in an incredible 4-2 win over Germany and the Cherries man thinks his compatriot's hot streak could lead to a move away from the Eredivisie.

“He's a natural goalscorer,” Ake said of Malen. “He's been in the squad the last two times and he scored straight away. He's a massive talent. He's still young, but to be so young and score so many goals for PSV is great.

“If he keeps going like this with PSV and the national team then I think he can make the step to playing in a big league.”

On a personal level, Ake is closing in on a dream of his own as he looks to qualify for his first major tournament with the Netherlands. He admitted that it was painful to miss the World Cup in Russia last time out but feels that the Dutch are ready to right their wrongs.

“It would be great to make the Euros,” he added. “[Missing the World Cup] was painful for everyone in Holland. “The buzz at the moment is very good, the team looks good and the manager is doing well. 

“To be around that, for me, is great. I hope to make the Euros and be a part of that.”

Nathan AkeEA Sports/NFS Heat handout

Nathan Ake was speaking at the London launch of Need For Speed Heat. Need For Speed Heat is out on November 8 for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. To pre-order your copy, head to