Last summer Barcelona reportedly tried to force Frenkie de Jong out of the club, telling the Dutch midfielder that he had to accept the contract offer from Manchester United, following an €85 million transfer agreement between the two sides.
Frenkie flat-out refused. He had no desire to leave Camp Nou, even if it meant a reunion with former Ajax manager Erik ten Hag. He had no desire to be the financial sacrifice for the club which had mismanaged its finances so severely.
La Blaugrana wanted to move on from de Jong in order to register new signings Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen, which 12 months on seems rather ludicrous.
Christensen has been a fine signing, but Franck Kessie is likely to leave this summer with Juventus the current leader for his signature.
Last night Frenkie was unveiled as a Barcelona captain, playing such a key role for the La Liga champions that he is now considered untouchable by Bara manager Xavi.
How does Frenkie de Jong fit into Xavi’s system?
When Frenkie joined the Catalan giants from Ajax in the summer of 2019, he was often viewed as the eventual replacement for Sergio Busquets as the defensive midfielder, breaking up play and breaking through the lines.
Their belief in the Ajax man convinced them to part with €86 million while fighting off the competition of Parisian giants PSG. The 2019/20 season didn’t exactly go to plan, Barca looked lost at times and their marquee signing scored just 2 goals and registered 4 assists in 42 games.
In 2020 Ronald Koeman arrived at Barcelona having managed de Jong with the Dutch national team, and that’s where his versatility was utilised. He played anywhere from a libero to an attacking midfielder and his ability to carry the ball was on full show. That year he scored 7 goals with 9 assists in 51 games.
With Xavi taking over, the expectation was that he would unlock the creative playmaker in de Jong, but his game took a backward step scoring 4 goals with 5 assists in 47 games, playing almost exclusively as an out-and-out central midfielder.
Despite starting the 2022-23 season on the bench, de Jong quickly became a pivotal figure for Xavi as Barcelona won La Liga for the first time since the 2018-19 season.
Barcelona’s move to a four-man midfield with a false winger allowed Frenkie the freedom to join the attack at will, knowing that he has cover behind him.
Frenkie can use his defensive ability when out of possession, often dropping into the slot next to Sergio Busquets, but can use his pace, power and ball-carrying to break the lines and join the forward line.
His stats may not look all that impressive, considering he had just 2 goals and 4 assists in 43 games, but a lot of the early games came as a substitute and it was only after the World Cup break that he really broke out and became a consistent force in the starting XI.
In short, he’s become a versatile asset for Xavi and Barcelona. This year he’ll be asked to play the exact same role, and will be hoping to maintain the consistency that he showed last year.
It’s been quite the remarkable transformation for Frenkie, from financial sacrifice to Barcelona captain.
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