Ronald de Boer joins The Barcelona Podcast to discuss the connections between Ajax and FC Barcelona and what it’s like playing with top players like Messi. They also talk Frenkie de Jong’s first season at Barcelona, the philosophies of La Masia, his time at the Camp Nou, plus his brother Frank de Boer’s coaching career.

Ronald de Boer on The Barcelona Podcast

Here are some quotes of the interview:

Ronald de Boer: “Frenkie de Jong played many games in his first year at Barcelona, which is an unbelievable team, and that was good for a youngster of his age. People keep thinking too much about the level he had at Ajax. If you think about Matthijs De Ligt, who I thought would be an automatic starter at Juventus but actually struggled to start regularly, you could say Frenkie’s first year was exceptional.”

“The Barça coach and his teammates now understand De Jong’s strength and qualities. He is a team player, can adapt to many positions and will definitely succeed. Hopefully, he actually becomes a regular at his preferred spot as distributor. To be honest, you can’t expect Frenkie to score 20 goals but he can certainly open up spaces in the midfield, turn away and balance the team when under pressure. When the time comes, De Jong can be a great replacement for Busquets.”

“I didn’t see Pele or Maradona play too much, but what Messi has done for so many years it just exceptional, he is by far the Number 1 in world football. We are lucky to live in this era.” “The Barça coach must find a way to accommodate Messi so he can display his full strengths and always be in the best position to excel. Other players have to adapt and be creative, but there must also be a balance – you can’t always play through Messi. In previous years, players such as Iniesta or Xavi were also key references when on the ball and, while they didn’t score much, they enabled Messi to be more free to drop into advantageous positions.”

“The key to Barça’s attack must be diversifying the goals amongst the forwards, as it happened in the past. Messi had players like Neymar, Henry or Suarez around him, resulting in more than 80 goals between them. That’s no longer the case, so Barça have a problem if the goals come from mainly just Messi. The manager must find a way to get others to step up and find the best balance for his team again.” “The philosophies at Barcelona and Ajax are very similar. The foundation of the club’s has to start with the youth and a clear idea of how the club should play. Players coming through the system should have Barça DNA and be directly identified as a product of your academy.”

“Given the current pandemic, many clubs will be affected. Clubs will look within their own youth system before buying from elsewhere. Actually, it should always be like that anyway. La Masia has been decisive over the years but, while Ajax are still doing that and trusting youngsters, that is less the case at Barça now. It’s a shame, you must have the belief in your youngsters. They know the style, are hungry and can adapt quickly.”

“Back in my time, you had first team players such as Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique or my brother Frank (de Boer) coaching in the lower ranks. This had an impact later on, as they knew these youngsters well and trusted them when it mattered in their road to the first team. Getting coaches from outside doesn’t work as well.”

“My brother Frank (de Boer) has a clear philosophy based on our years at Ajax, but he is not crazy either. If you have Messi, it is easier to play a more attacking style of football. Frank always looks at the players at his disposal and then decides what is best to make his team win games. Over the years, he has evolved from his initial idea to just blindly play attacking football and can now also be conservative if needed. Of course, he always aims to entertain the fans but, at the back of his mind, he also appreciates that winning builds confidence and momentum so that more attractive, attacking football can be played then. The best thing about Frank is that he is constantly learning and adapting.”