Life at Barcelona for Frenkie de Jong has been up and down. When he first arrived, he wasn’t the same player he was while at Ajax but much of that had to do with the disarray the Catalan side was under.
While things improved under Ronald Koeman, De Jong hadn’t taken command of the midfield as many would have hoped. A large part of that had to do with the fact Sergio Busquets was still around.
The veteran midfielder has long been a stalwart in the Barcelona side and a player who is crucial to the way Barcelona want to play. He still is to this day and whether that’s a good or bad thing is certainly up for debate.
With someone already playing in his position, it was always going to be difficult for De Jong to show the same level he did at Ajax as he no longer was responsible for building play from the back. It led to his future at the club coming to doubt with Manchester United heavily interested in the Dutchman. Despite Barcelona willing to listen to an offer — they needed to sell to lower the wage bill — De Jong held firm in his desire to succeed with Barcelona.
A real opportunity might finally be here as, according to Sport, manager Xavi Hernandez sees De Jong as the successor for the aforementioned Busquets.
One of the reasons is because the club is financially limited. De Jong would present an in-house solution to a problem they’ve had for a long time. Busquets is coming down to the end of the road with Barcelona. His contract is set to end at the end of the season and while Barcelona would like to bring him back, his role would be reduced if he is.
Again, the position is one De Jong is very familiar with and one he’s excelled at in the past. He’s been reasonably patient with his playing time even if he’s not finishing as many games as he would like. Now is as good a time as any to finally see whether or not De Jong can be a viable solution.
Names like Ruben Neves and Martin Zubimendi have been touted as possible Busquets replacements but the latter is out of their price range and would be Xavi’s other choice if he had his way. Joan Laporta likes Neves but Xavi is unconvinced.
In addition to the manager now putting more faith in De Jong, the club seem too as well as Laporta stated in an interview that the Dutchman is not for sale. This could simply be posturing but it’s a different tune than the one they were singing last season where they were all but shoving him out the door.
At 25, De Jong is only now entering the prime of his career. He hasn’t lived up to his potential and Barcelona certainly haven’t helped. Regardless is Busquets is brought back or not, the decision as to who will play in the center of midfield has been taken. For the foreseeable future, it will be De Jong’s spot to lose.