Barcelona and the strange need for Frenkie De Jong | Soccer | Sports

FC Barcelona
De Jong against Bamba in the match between Barcelona and Celta.ALBERT GEA (REUTERS)

The message was clear: “We want you to become one of the team’s leaders.” The recipient, Frenkie De Jong. One of the first decisions that Deco made as Barcelona’s football director was to go look for the Dutch midfielder. They had a talk in which the new head of the Ciudad Deportiva presented a different future. “Ter Stegen, Araujo, Gavi and you have to lead Barcelona,” he assured him. And he did not take long to call his representative to begin negotiations to extend his relationship with the Barça entity, which ends in June 2026.

It was not the first time that De Jong heard those words. Ter Stegen, his friend and team captain, is also very aware of the situation of the former Ajax player. From the offices to the locker room, the idea is the same: De Jong has to follow in the German goalkeeper’s footsteps and sign a contract that ties him to the Camp Nou for many years. A radical change in De Jong’s Barça life, at the club, but above all in the team.

Xavi’s Barcelona suffers when De Jong is missing. Without Busquets, Oriol Romeu and the Dutchman joined forces in the center of the field. A success for the coach: “It is the best Barça since I arrived.” The problem is that the Dutchman is injured – he suffers a sprained ankle – and the team loses balance, as was seen this Wednesday in Porto. “We didn’t have the two best players to take care of the ball,” the coach clarified, in reference to the absences of De Jong and Pedri, after the difficult victory in Portugal, the second in the group stage of the Champions League. With De Jong in the team, Barça loses an average of 106 balls per game; without him, 130. Furthermore, with the 21 on the field, the Blaugrana have more possession (70% to 62%) and a higher percentage of victories (85% to 66%).

“The one who surprised me the most is De Jong because of his perception with the ball, how he interprets the spaces,” highlighted João Félix. He is not the only Barça player who values ​​Frenkie De Jong. “Who I admire the most is De Jong. When he told himself that he could leave, he was screwed,” Gavi said in an interview with The vanguard in reference to the possible departure of the Dutchman in the summer of 2022. At that time, with Mateu Alemany at the head of the football management, the club destabilized the former Ajax player to force his departure.

Barça justified the pressure on De Jong with two arguments: the first, his high salary; the second, he was one of the few players with a market. Busquets, one of his great protectors, did not understand the club, nor did his friend Messi from Paris. For both of them, today at Inter Miami, the Dutchman was the future. But De Jong stood up: “I want to stay.” The coaching staff celebrated his attitude, although they asked him to take a step forward. “He plays seven or eight points every game, but he has the level to play nine or 10,” they commented from the staff from Xavi

Today De Jong is the footballer that Xavi wanted. And, when he is not there, Barça suffers. The problem for Xavi, in any case, is not only reduced to the Dutchman’s absence. Barcelona has Pedri and Raphinha injured. And after the duel against Porto, Lewandowski joined the infirmary. After the first examinations at the Do Dragão stadium, Barcelona’s medical services were confident that the Pole only suffered a bruise on his left ankle, after the strong tackle of David Carmo (he was replaced by Ferran Torres in the 31st minute). However, this Thursday morning, Barça confirmed that the forward has a sprained ankle. He will not be against Granada next Sunday and those around him question his presence in the Clásico on Saturday, October 28. “We don’t believe he will arrive,” they say.

Barcelona’s short squad (19 first team players, plus Lamine Yamal and Fermín López) are a blessing for the club’s economic area – this year the salary bill, plus amortizations, is within the standards recommended by UEFA, it is say less than 70% of income -, but a headache for Xavi Hernández. At least, Barça breathes in Europe. It doesn’t shine, but it wins. After the victory in Porto, the Barça team takes three points for the first time in two consecutive games away from Barcelona since 2020. “We have begun to get rid of the ghosts of the Champions League of other years,” the coach celebrated. And that didn’t count on De Jong. That new strange need for Barcelona.

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