Frenkie de Jong will swap Ajax for Barcelona this summer – why are so many people so happy about the 21-year-old?
Frenkie de Jong, the hottest stellar talent to make his name at Ajax, is on verge to join Barcelona next summer. Still only 21, De Jong has long been pushed as the next big thing – a once-in-a-generation player whose style straddles that of an old-style libero, a deep-lying playmaker and a more conventional central midfielder. No6, No8 and No10 all rolled into one.
But what precisely is it that makes him so special?
Watch De Jong in action for Ajax
10 May 2015: Senior debut for Willem II, coming on as a substitute against Den Haag two days before his 18th birthday.
22 August 2015: Joins Ajax aged 18 but is transferred back to Willem II on loan for the first half of the following season.
25 January 2016: First professional goal in Jong Ajax’s 2-0 defeat of NAC Breda.
21 September 2016: Ajax debut in cup match against former club Willem II.
6 September 2018: Senior Netherlands debut as half-time substitute in 2-1 friendly win against Peru.
23 January 2019: Signs for Barcelona on a five-year deal.
De Jong is a multifunctional right-footed midfielder. He has fanciful balance and dribbling ability, while his delivery benefits from him always playing with his head up. He has the lot – quickening, craft, control, tactical nous and sharp decision-making. He can change the game in the blink of an eye.
Five who starred for Ajax and Barcelona
“I had an interview for the Willem II website, and was asked about my favourite player. Obviously most coaches name Cristiano Ronaldo or Leo Messi, but I said Frenkie De Jong. He was fantastic technically – a natural talent.”
Jos Bogers, De Jong’s Willem II’s U15 coach
“Frenkie de Jong was a small, skinny lad with spindly legs five years ago. No one paid attention to him, but something struck me about when he receives the ball – that is still his biggest quality. I knew he was the one we had to get, and I didn’t give up.”
Marc Overmars, Ajax director of football
“He is always calm and always has the solution. He scans so well that he always knows how to go forward. You can hardly put him under pressure – that is such a great gift.”
Erik ten Hag, Ajax coach
“His biggest quality? In a lot of situations he has the ability to postpone the decision when in possession, and then to give a pass from which everyone thinks: ‘Hell yeah, excellent thinking, that’s how simple it can be’. His view of the game is exceptional.”
Ronald Koeman, Netherlands coach
“He’s a really exciting signing for the club, both in terms of the present and the future. He’s a great player with a really, really big future in front of him. We are hoping for the best for him, because his success will be the club’s too. He’s a great signing, a really great acquisition.”
Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona coach
“I really think he is a revelation. You might laugh, but he is a better version of Franz Beckenbauer. People must interpret that properly. What I really mean is that he also has speed and passes easily. That’s an enormous weapon.”
Arie Haan, former Ajax and Netherlands midfielder
“He looks like Sergio Busquets in terms of playing style. He’s young, but I think he can make a huge contribution now. He is seen as a beastly talent. De Jong’s profile is exactly what Barcelona need.”
Xavi Hernández, Barcelona’s all-time leading appearance maker
“He really does have some touches of Johan Cruyff. That acceleration, that hair, that forward thinking. He is not a second Cruyff, but he really does have the essence of Cruyff. He is our big hope in dark days.”
Valentijn Driessen, De Telegraaf newspaper’s chief football correspondent
Very much in the mould of a modern-day Barcelona midfielder, De Jong is likely to have few issues fitting in at the Camp Nou. Given his technical qualities and eye for a pass, you could be absolved for thinking he was trained at La Masia. However, he might not walk straight into the team given he plays in the same position as Sergio Busquets, from whom he will look to learn and, ultimately, succeed.
How will Valverde fit De Jong into his side?
Ivan Rakitić, Philippe Coutinho and Arthur will also provide stuff competition for a place in the first XI, but expect to see him strengthen a regular berth sooner rather than later.
De Jong will become the newest in a long line of players to have represented both Ajax and Barça. While the likes of Ronald Koeman, Patrick Kluivert, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Luis Suárez did so so with pit stops elsewhere inbetween, Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Frank de Boer are among the most famous talents to have moved directly from Amsterdam to Catalonia.
Cruyff, of course, was the granddaddy of them all, winning all before him with Ajax containing three European Cups. He was the ultimate champion of Total Football for both club and country and adored further success with Barcelona as a player and coach.
Man Utd to pay Ronaldo £17m per year to leave Juventus
Manchester United have tabled a £17 million-a-year deal, in a bid to lure Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus this summer, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.
The transfer could see Paul Pogba also return to Juventus.
Ronaldo’s future is likely to be one of the biggest sagas of the summer window.
It is understood the Portugal captain is eager to leave Italy, but Paris Saint-Germain is his preferred destination.
Usain Bolt chooses better player between Ronaldo, Messi
But with no deal offered yet from the Ligue 1 giants, Manchester United is said to have swooped with a tempting offer for their former player.
The Red Devils are willing to pay Ronaldo £17m a year to bring him back to Old Trafford. And with Pogba’s situation at the club unclear, he could be used as a makeweight in the deal.
Sporting Lisbon and Real Madrid are also being talked about as potential destinations for Ronaldo, but the finances could be an issue with a number of big clubs cash-strapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mbappe vs Giroud: Pogba clears air on ‘rift’ between France teammates
France midfielder, Paul Pogba, has cleared the air on a ‘rift’ between teammates, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.
Recall that Mbappe felt ‘attacked’ and ‘angry’ following Giroud’s comments that he was unhappy with France’s lack of cohesion in attack after Didier Deschamps’s side defeated Bulgaria 3-0 in their final Euro 2020 warm-up game on Tuesday evening.
Reacting to the development, Pogba insisted that there is a ‘great atmosphere’ in the French camp ahead of their Euro 2020 campaign.
Asked whether there has been any tension or rift between Giroud and Mbappe, Pogba told a pre-match press conference ahead of the Euro 2020 campaign: “No, the only tension is on the back and legs!
“There is always a great atmosphere with everyone. Between Olivier and Kylian, there is nothing. Or at least there has been nothing in front of me.
“Maybe what was said was conveyed incorrectly,” he added.
France kicks off their Euro 2020 campaign against Germany next Tuesday.
The World Cup champions will also face Portugal and Hungary in Group F.
Transfer: Giroud welcome to join me at AC Milan – Ibrahimovic
Ferdinand, Shearer, Lineker predict Euro 2020 winner
Alan Shearer, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker have all predicted that France will win Euro 2020.
The French will expect to add a continental triumph to their World Cup success.
Dider Deschamps’ team conquered the world in Russia three years ago, with the squad still boasting of Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and N’Golo Kante.
Karim Benzema has also returned from a five-year exile to add more strength to the already deadly attack.
UCL: Lineker, others praise Chelsea’s Mason after 2-0 win over Porto
“France to win it. They have got talent all over the pitch,” Shearer told the BBC.
Ferdinand added: “France have got the most depth and the most talent, that is why they are my favourites.”
Lineker however believes defending champions Portugal could yet retain their crown, but has still backed Les Bleus.
“It’s hard to look beyond France – they were losing finalists five years ago, they won the World Cup three years ago and now they have Karim Benzema too.
“They will be improved and they have brilliant young players too. They have to be favourites.
“Portugal are not exactly an outsider because they won the thing four years ago but they have a very good team and they will have a chance,” he said.
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