Frenkie de Jong will start his debut season on Friday as a player of FC Barcelona. The 22-year-old midfielder made an excellent impression in the preparation and seems to be no longer able to fail with the fans. The Spanish journalist Xavier Ortuno and former Barça player Ronald de Boer understand that.
It is early July when FC Barcelona places a video on the club's social media channels for De Jong's announcement later that week in Camp Nou. It shows how a boy with a ticket for a stadium tour walks past photos of stars from the past. First Johan Cruijff, then Ronald Koeman and then ... Frenkie de Jong.
The boy is told as an accompanying text in his ear that De Jong is "the latest Dutch school artist to wear the Blaugrana shirt" and a little later "a new talent for Barça". He nods in agreement. And with him probably many others who see the images on their phone, because the stadium is filled with tens of thousands of supporters a few days later.
De Jong more than meets expectations. He was immediately named man of the match at his first (practice) match in Camp Nou against Arsenal (2-1) and showed his class last week in the duel with Napoli (4-0) with an unparalleled assist on Ousmane Dembélé .
"He has already won over the fans," said Ortuno, who follows FC Barcelona on behalf of the leading Catalan newspaper Diario Sport. "When attracting players like Dembélé and Coutinho it was always about the transfer fee. Not with De Jong. He has already enchanted everyone with his smile and of course his football qualities."
"At first he seemed a bit searching, but he made an excellent impression against Napoli and Arsenal," De Boer adds. "I don't see much difference with how he played at Ajax and that is great. He actually does it even better. When you play at FC Barcelona you sometimes feel invincible, especially when you play at home. meaning. "
1FC Barcelona compares De Jong with Cruijff in the announcement of the presentation
"De Jong is what FC Barcelona needed"
De Jong cost FC Barcelona 'only' 75 million euros. The champion of Spain already contracted him in January, at a time when De Jong had not yet led his then club Ajax to a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League, thanks to victories over Real Madrid and Juventus.
Diario Sport, among others, called that amount a bargain after De Jong's first friendly matches for FC Barcelona. The medium even wondered why the seven-time international of the Dutch national team was not brought in much earlier.
"When I first saw De Jong playing for FC Barcelona, I thought: oh my god , that boy is really good," said Ortuno. "Not that I didn't know that already, because I saw him in action last year in the Champions League and Eredivisie, but when you see him live, you really realize it."
"De Jong has reached 75 million, so there is a certain pattern of expectations," says De Boer. "You will be thrown into the garbage in no time. That world is tough. People are often mistaken that a base place near Barcelona is an accomplished fact if you are met for such an amount. But of course that is not the case. You have to be tough for it continue to work and show it on the field. "
"De Jong is what Barcelona needed, a fresh face", Ortuno continues. "With his dribbles and passing he can give the game another dimension. With that he can perhaps take some responsibility away from Messi. Almost everything had to come from him last year. De Jong and Messi together on the field can become a party."
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'De Jong fits perfectly in the position of auditor'
De Jong is the twentieth Dutch player in the history of FC Barcelona and thanks to his strong entrance and natural way of playing football in Catalonia, he is sometimes compared to the most legendary Dutchman who ever played for Barça.
"The comparison with Johan Cruijff is far too exaggerated", De Boer nuances with a smile. "He's just Frenkie and doesn't have to worry about that. But I am a Frenkie fan and see him doing very well in Barcelona in the future."
"Nobody expects him to perform the same as Cruijff", Ortuno also emphasizes. "You shouldn't want to put that pressure on him at all. But when De Jong is at the ball, something beautiful arises and that was also the case with Cruijff. So you get a bit of the same feeling. But De Jong just has to do his own thing. "
It remains to be seen whether De Jong will immediately have a base place in Barcelona, which will open the league on Friday visiting Athletic Bilbao. In the preparation by trainer Ernesto Valverde he was mainly drafted as a controller, but routine Sergio Busquets (31) still seems uncontested at that position.
"De Jong fits perfectly in the position of auditor, but Valverde is not someone who just changes things", Ortuno knows. "Busquets therefore simply remains standing, but De Jong also starts in the basics. Nobody doubts that. In any case, with De Jong they have an excellent back-up for Busquets."