Frenkie de Jong has had a decent first season at Barcelona. Signed from Ajax for a considerable €75 million back in July 2019, the 23-year-old Dutch international established himself as a regular starter from his very first official match – something that not many youngsters have succeeded in doing in recent times.
As I argued in much more detail in our latest The Barcelona Podcast, Barcelona manager Quique Setien has no option but to field his strongest possible starting XI in the crucial Champions League clash against Napoli.
The absences of veterans Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal give Setien very little room for manoeuvre in midfield. With that in mind, and given the fact that de Jong is one of the most talented, dynamic and freshest players at his disposal, it is now time for the Dutch international to become the commanding leader he was at Ajax, but obviously now wearing the Blaugrana jersey.
Listen to The Barcelona Podcast for our Champions League preview, plus more on de Jong, Dembele’s possible return and Arthur’s decision to remain in Brazil:
“I’m feeling good with a lot of positive energy. I’ve recovered well from the injury and am feeling fit. The break was good for the whole team. We’ve recharged our batteries. It was nice to get some rest and get our energy back.”.
“I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t play but I have prepared well for the next few games and feel ready for the one against Napoli.”
“I’m always motivated, but the Champions League is clearly very special. I don’t feel under more pressure now that I’m at Barça, it’s the same in every game. In a single legged game the smaller teams have a bigger chance of springing a surprise. Of course we need to win at all costs, but playing games over one leg is harder because anyone can shock you. But it’s a new thing for everyone, nobody has played with this format before, and all the teams that are going will be going because they deserve to be there.”
“Napoli have some top quality players and they’re very well disciplined. I’m sure it’ll be a difficult game. All Champions League games are, but we need to make sure we make it into the next round.”
“The first leg against Napoli was difficult. We had a lot of players behind the ball and it wasn’t a great result, but I’m confident we can play better now.”
“We have had more time to prepare for the game while they are still in the rhythm of playing games, so it can be read two ways. During the season, you only have two or three days to get ready for a game, and this time we have had two weeks.”
“Busquets and Vidal are two fundamental players and they’ll be missed. But in our team, all the players are top quality.”
“It’s a bit of an odd situation, even more so in the Champions League, where you really feel the presence of the fans. But there are four games left to win the trophy. Every game is decisive, and that makes it harder.”
De Jong can certainly talk the talk – Time to walk the walk in front of the eyes of millions of ever-demanding Culers around the world.
Francesc Tomàs is a Catalan columnist featured in ESPN, The Guardian and many others. Born and raised minutes away from the Camp Nou, Francesc has been sharing his opinionated views with thousands of faithful Culer listeners via The Barcelona Podcast since 2017.