Frenkie de Jong the key man when Barcelona face Man United

It’s a query that is been requested so typically since the summer time switch window, however at the very least this time Frenkie de Jong’s girlfriend, Mikky Kiemeney, had a solution.

After a summer time of hypothesis about De Jong probably shifting to Manchester United, she was requested throughout an Instagram Q&A, “When’s Frenkie coming to Manchester?” Her tongue-in-cheek reply — “23-2, I guess” — was a reference to Barcelona’s Europa League tie with United, which kicks off at Camp Nou on Thursday earlier than the return leg at Old Trafford on Feb. 23.

Despite the finest efforts of United and supervisor Erik ten Hag final summer time, De Jong can be taking part in for Barcelona, though they have not given up hope of seeing the Dutch midfielder carrying pink in the future. But what occurred final summer time with that switch saga, and what has occurred since? How huge of an element will he be on this Europa League conflict, and can Man United attempt once more to signal the 25-year-old this summer time?

De Jong’s match at Barcelona

De Jong’s time at Barca has been laced with debate. For a begin: what’s his finest position? When the Dutch worldwide arrived in 2019, many incorrectly anticipated him to be the inheritor to veteran holding midfielder Sergio Busquets. Some of De Jong’s finest qualities will not be suited to being at the base of a midfield three, although, and several other of his coaches have made that time at Ajax and at Barca.

While nonetheless answerable for Ajax, Ten Hag mentioned De Jong “leaves the middle of the pitch too often [to be the sole defensive midfielder].” He mentioned in the event you do not give him the freedom to get ahead, you do not get the finest out of him. Ronald Koeman, who managed Barcelona in 2020-21, agreed, and a few of De Jong’s standout Barca performances, like the 2021 Copa del Rey ultimate, got here when he was inspired to gamble and get into the field. He scored in that ultimate, and it regarded as if his Camp Nou profession was lastly taking off.

De Jong was a favorite below Koeman and whereas the dismissal of his Dutch compatriot — who was fired in October 2021 after a dismal begin to the season — may have been seen as a unfavourable, the appointment of Xavi Hernandez allowed a constructive spin, too. Xavi was considered one of Barca’s best-ever midfielders and was seen as a coach who may take De Jong’s sport to the subsequent stage. However, there have been teething issues — not only for De Jong however for different gamers as properly.

Xavi by no means named names, however he did say there have been gamers who did not perceive what he was educating. “[The players] were not working on positional play, and we defend differently to the way they did under the previous coach,” he said in December 2021. “We don’t understand the way we want to play football. It’s strange that there are Barca players that don’t understand positional play.”

De Jong was recurrently taken off early in video games, which led to the conclusion final summer time that, for that proper switch price, he may very well be thought-about surplus at Camp Nou.

For his half, Xavi voiced help for the participant however by no means dominated out an exit. “There is the sporting situation and the financial situation,” was his go-to line when requested about De Jong.

Meanwhile, Barca president Joan Laporta courted curiosity from United and, despite the fact that Laporta will deny it now, sources at the time confirmed to ESPN that Barca would have been ready to switch De Jong out to Old Trafford for a price round €85 million. As properly as the money enhance from such a price, Barca would even have been freed from De Jong’s wage, which is considered one of the highest in the squad and will increase every year due to a deferral settlement signed when he renewed to assist the membership minimize spending in the brief time period.

De Jong had different concepts. Sources near the participant by no means strayed from the line that he needed to remain in Barcelona. He stayed in the finish, however not with out collateral injury. He has since spoken about his annoyance at how the membership’s hierarchy handled the difficulty — “I blame these people [the Barca hierarchy], but I have nothing to do with them” — however his latest performances in a brand new midfield 4 are serving to everybody transfer on from any in poor health emotions lingering from final summer time. — Marsden

The Man United facet: Why they needed De Jong

When Ten Hag bought the supervisor’s job at Old Trafford in the spring of 2022, he made it clear his precedence was to signal a central midfielder. De Jong, who had labored with Ten Hag at Ajax for a few seasons earlier than shifting to Barcelona in 2019, was recognized in a short time as considered one of his high targets, notably as a result of United have been made conscious that Barcelona can be open to a deal in an effort to ease their monetary worries.

The two golf equipment made loads of progress throughout talks to thrash out a deal, and at one stage, after United soccer director John Murtough had flown to Spain, had a broad settlement. However, cash owed to De Jong by the Spanish facet after he agreed to defer wages throughout the top of the coronavirus pandemic brought about a big downside. Sources near United insist they might not have pursued De Jong as strongly in the event that they’d not had encouragement that he was prepared to maneuver, though most of the participant’s public feedback on the potential switch counsel in any other case.

When it turned clear that De Jong wasn’t taking place final summer time, United turned to Casemiro as their central midfielder, with the Brazil and Real Madrid star arriving in late August for a reported price of £60m plus add-ons. It has labored out properly, with the Brazilian already considered one of this season’s standout gamers. But regardless of Casemiro’s arrival, United have by no means totally dominated out reigniting their curiosity in De Jong, and the membership have been led to imagine he can be made accessible once more in the summer time.

Ten Hag’s priorities in the switch market have shifted, and it is possible signing a striker can be his precedence forward of subsequent season, however he has made no secret of his need to signal De Jong. Equally, United will surely discover it once more if it turned clear he’s leaving Camp Nou. — Dawson

Will De Jong be a important participant in these Europa League clashes?

This week, De Jong faces the membership he may have joined final summer time as considered one of Barca’s most in-form gamers. Xavi has lately switched from a 4-3-3 formation to extra of a 4-4-2, with midfielder Gavi performing as a false left winger to create superiority in the center of the pitch.

The change has introduced the finest out of De Jong. With Busquets beside him — though the Barca captain is a significant doubt for the United tie with an ankle sprain — he has the liberty to assault with out the concern of leaving area behind him. In Gavi and Pedri, he has two of the finest younger midfielders in the world to hyperlink with, and because of this he has performed a significant half in Barca’s 16-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

Perhaps the finest sight of De Jong is him galloping ahead with the ball when area opens forward of him, his opponents unable to maintain up, however there are technical particulars as properly. His refined chipped go for Robert Lewandowski towards Villarreal at the weekend deserved a aim. He’s ferocious in Barca’s excessive press and has the vitality to get again to defend counter-attacks, too.



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In some ways, De Jong is a contemporary model of a box-to-box midfielder in Barcelona’s setup. There shouldn’t be a lot he can’t do, though in an interview with ESPN he spoke a few need to maintain bettering.

“I think I can improve my long-range passing a lot,” he mentioned. “I can score more goals. I don’t think it’s the most important thing as a midfielder, especially with my style of playing, but I can score more goals. I can improve my long-range shooting, going behind the defence, runs behind the defence.”

De Jong’s performances mustn’t come as a shock, both. He was stellar in Ajax’s Champions League semifinal run in 2019 and is all the time the finest participant for the Netherlands, however after over three years at Camp Nou, questions have been being requested. After sticking to his weapons and staying final summer time, he was a substitute in three of the first 4 league video games this season. It is now unthinkable that he can be left on the bench, until he is being rested.

Heading into Thursday, De Jong has performed 90 minutes in every of Barca’s previous 5 video games, and United — Ten Hag particularly — will not want any reminders of the risk he carries. — Marsden

Will Man United attempt once more this coming summer time?

United’s precedence heading into the summer time switch window is to signal a high-level striker, however Ten Hag’s stance on De Jong is that the door “isn’t closed.”

From United’s standpoint, a lot will depend upon Barcelona’s monetary scenario and whether or not De Jong desires to maneuver to Old Trafford, however Ten Hag nonetheless believes that the 25-year-old is considered one of the finest midfielders in the world — notably due to his passing skill — and that he would complement what Ten Hag already has in the squad.

It’s additionally attainable that each Fred and Scott McTominay may depart, though that is removed from sure. Ten Hag can also be a eager admirer of Jude Bellingham, however there is a feeling that Manchester City, Liverpool and Real Madrid are forward in the race for his signature if, as anticipated, he leaves Borussia Dortmund at the finish of the season.

With the possession of the membership up in the air and monetary honest play changing into extra of a priority, the funds accessible to Ten Hag and the recruitment staff shouldn’t be set in stone. The bulk of it would go on a striker — Victor Osimhen at Napoli, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Brentford’s Ivan Toney are amongst the targets being monitored — but when there’s an opportunity of touchdown De Jong as properly, Ten Hag is not going to need to go it up.

Pep Guardiola is one other fan of De Jong’s, and Manchester City have checked out a switch in the previous, however despite the fact that they may very well be in the marketplace for a midfielder in the summer time, they’re unlikely to reignite their curiosity. — Dawson

Barcelona’s perspective: De Jong is as important as he has ever been

Several elements have mixed to alter Barcelona’s standpoint on De Jong. The first is their change to a midfield 4, which makes him maybe as important as he has ever been since he joined the membership. The second is his type inside that system, which has been distinctive, and the third is the uncertainty round Busquets’ future.

Although the two gamers are seen as very completely different stylistically, the membership don’t need to lose two of their beginning midfielders in the similar summer time. Busquets is out of contract in June, and with curiosity from Major League Soccer and Saudi Arabia, it is not but clear whether or not he’ll lengthen his deal and stay at the Camp Nou.

Despite their continued struggles to stick to LaLiga’s honest play guidelines, Barca additionally insist there is no must hearken to provides for gamers they do not need to launch. Laporta, whether or not bluffing or not, confirmed that at a information convention final week, and De Jong may be very a lot in that class now. Sources counsel bids may very well be inspired for “squad players,” however not for “regulars” like the Dutch worldwide.

De Jong, in the meantime, has pressured his need to stay at the membership for the subsequent decade, and the staff’s upward trajectory is unlikely to alter his thoughts imminently. (His goalkeeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, was additionally emphatic about his emotions in direction of De Jong, telling the media Tuesday, “I hoped he would keep as a result of, in the finish, that is the kind of participant I need in my staff. Of course, there have been many rumours and discussions and no matter, however I’m simply joyful he’s right here. I do not need him to go away.)

With the Spanish Supercopa already received, an 11-point lead in LaLiga, a Copa del Rey semifinal and the Europa League all to return, this may very well be De Jong’s most profitable season but in Catalonia. — Marsden

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