Just days after making one of the more surprising signings of the January transfer window, by inking Kevin Prince Boateng to a six month loan, Spanish giants FC Barcelona made a move on Wednesday that many in Europe were expecting them to make.
Frenkie de Jong, an exciting Dutch midfielder who plays his football for Ajax, will join Barcelona at the end of the season for 75 million Euros, per the club’s official website.
Barcelona outbid fellow European giants Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City for de Jong’s services.
At just 21, de Jong figures to be a key cog in Barcelona’s long term plans. The club is still transitioning from losing two legendary midfielders (Xavi in 2015 and Andres Iniesta in 2018). De Jong is a player in a similar mold.
de Jong, who is right footed, can slot in as an attacking midfielder, a central midfielder, or even a defensive midfielder, offering Barcelona versatility and balance in midfield. He also fits the bill of a creative maestro that has been so intrinsic in Barcelona’s footballing philosophy.
Barcelona have been investing in youthful, prodigious talents for over a year now. de Jong joins Arthur, acquired this summer to replace Iniesta, and Ousmane Dembele, who was acquired last summer to replace Neymar, as players who figure to make up the teams core when mainstays like Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Gerard Pique eventually hang up their boots.
How will de Jong fit in at Barcelona? This season, under manager Ernesto Valverde, la Blaugrana have transitioned from the more defensive oriented 4-4-2 that won them the league last season, to a slightly more adventurous 4-3-3, which has been the typical formation of the club for years, particularly under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique.
de Jong will join an immensely talented, albeit crowded midfield unit.
Youth and experience ✨ pic.twitter.com/w6QoPJ5Yt7
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 23, 2019
de Jong and Arthur are young players who are immediately going to be involved in the first team. Busquets, Rakitic, and Vidal are the steady old hangs. Rafinha and Samper provide squad depth and cover; Alena and Oriol Busquets project as long term squad options.
However, de Jong’s arrival spells doubt over one man’s Barcelona future: Phillipe Coutinho. The Brazilian earned his dream transfer to the Nou Camp last January, but has been average at best this season. He started off well, playing as a central midfielder, but his statistical success came at the expense of Barcelona’s balance, as noted by Squawka.
Coutinho then moved out wide, but struggled in that position, and has since been overtaken by the Frenchman Dembele, who has had an outstanding second season in Spain.
Coutinho’s failure to integrate at Barcelona may have accentuated de Jong’s move to Spain– the Dutch youngster has similar creative talents to Coutinho, but offers better defensive balance in the midfield.
Essentially, Coutinho appears to be the player who will be most impacted by de Jong’s arrival. After spending a large chunk of money on de Jong, Barcelona may feel obligated to move Coutinho on, perhaps to Manchester United or Chelsea, and use the cash his transfer generates to purchase a striker– Luis Suarez is the lone true No. 9 on the Barcelona squad, and is on the wrong side of thirty.
Frenkie de Jong’s passing ability and his lineage (he joins a group of Dutch players who have played for Barcelona that includes Johan Cruyff, Ronald Koeman, Patrick Kluivert, and Frank de Boer) suggests that he will be a key cog in Barcelona’s midfield for years to come.
His arrival, however, may also raise a red flag toward the direction of Philippe Coutinho, and his future at the club.
Coutinho has time to prove himself however, as de Jong only becomes a Barcelona player on July 1, 2019.
Until then, we can only sit back and watch de Jong in his final months at Ajax, which will include a Champions League Round of 16 matchup with a club he will become very familiar with when he moves to Spain: Real Madrid.