After four disappointing years, Frenkie De Jong has found a perfect role at Barcelona, and become one of the world’s most effective centre-midfielders
In mid-August, Frenkie de Jong gave an interview to Catalonian publication El Periodico. In a lengthy chat, he acknowledged that he nearly left Barcelona after a high-profile summer of transfer speculation in 2022. He admitted that he was aware of the criticism he so regularly received in his first few years at the club. But, crucially, he made it clear that he doesn’t ever want to play anywhere else.
De Jong is certainly saying these things because he wants a new contract – something Barca are reportedly willing to offer. But there is certainly some sincerity to his claims, too.
De Jong’s four years at Camp Nou haven’t gone exactly according to plan. He cost the Blaugrana €75 million (£65m/$85m) and looked like an imperfect fit from day one.
At first, he was being asked to fill a role he wasn’t made for. Then, he underperformed at a spot that seemed to suit him the most. He was almost sold to Manchester United at least once. But now, thanks to a number of tactical switches, and uncharacteristic patience from those in the front office, De Jong has come into his own.
The former Ajax midfielder has always possessed a unique skillset, one that had for some time needed a manager to set up a system that could maximise it. Xavi has done just that, turning De Jong into an indispensable part of a Barca side, a player who fills a niche role for a winning team, certainly worth every single penny of the exorbitant fee Barca paid for his services in 2019.