On January 23, 2019, Spanish giants Barcelona announced the signing of Ajax player Frenkie De Jong for a reported 75 million euros. He’ll leave his current club to join Messi and co. this summer.
The journey for Barcelona was a tug-of-war scenario dating back to 2016 when the initial interest came about. In 2017, the club officially submitted two bids, both which were denied due to not meeting Ajax’s asking price. And after beating Paris Saint Germain to the player’s signature, it was bound to make headlines.
So who is De Jong? Is the hype real? Why so much for the young player? Let’s break it down:
Frenkie De Jong is a 21-year-old Dutch player whose story is a typical one. Climbing the ranks of Dutch football, De Jong began on the lower division team, Willem II, who has floated in between the Eredivisie and Eerste Divisie, the second-highest tier of football in the Netherlands. Frenkie started in Willem’s youth team, eventually getting promoted to the senior squad.
“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,” said Jos Bogers, De Jong’s Willem II’s U15 coach.
Bogers was spot on. De Jong would join Eredevisie side Ajax in 2015 on a four-year contract.
De Jong’s Rise
His first professional goal came at Ajax’s 2-0 defeat of NAC Breda in January of 2016. That single goal would be the start to his enormous rise.
Continuing forward, De Jong’s play throughout the 2016–17 season saw him nab the Jupiler League’s Talent of the Season award.
He then helped take Ajax to the 2017 Europa League final.
During his three year tenure at Ajax, De Jong netted 5 goals in 42 appearances.
Erik ten Hag, Ajax coach, spoke highly of the young Dutch: “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.”
On June 9, 2018, De Jong made his senior international debut in a friendly win against Peru.
“De Jong is one of Europe’s most promising midfield talents,” Barcelona said in a statement. “At just 21 years of age, he is joining the club after proving himself as a multifunctional player with an excellent reading of the game and the ability to provide the killer pass.”
That quote describes him perfectly. Don’t be fooled by his mere five goals in 42 appearances. Barca will leave the goal scoring to whoever inevitably arrives to replace Suarez. This move is all about long term.
While many critics and supporters worry De Jong will not see adequate playing time due to a crowded midfield of exceptional players, he’ll need time to adapt to the Barca playing style.
Besides, he’ll have the rare opportunity to learn from one of the best, Sergio Busquets, and maybe a thing or two from Ivan Rakitic. It’s important to note the ages of the aforementioned players – both 30 years of age.
There’s no doubt Barcelona has acquired one of Europe’s most promising talents. Is this the start of a rebuilding phase post-Messi era?
In the meantime, Frenkie has work to do. Winning the league is Ajax’s first priority (last title was 2013-14), while there is also a Champions League round of 16 meeting with Real Madrid.
Still don’t believe the hype? Check out the video below for some highlights.