Frenkie de Jong has been talking about his first season at Barcelona and what it is like to play alongside Lionel Messi for the Catalan giants.
The Netherlands international swapped Ajax for Barcelona last season and has gone on to become a regular in midfield for the Spanish champions in 2019-20.
De Jong told Guillem Balague on BBC Radio 5 Live’s European Football Podcast that he feels he can improve and appreciates the advice he has received from Messi.
“In Ajax and the Dutch squad I’ve had a different role but we’re playing with a double six [two defensive midfielders]. I have to adapt and it’s going OK, but I can improve. I’m at my best when I’m not the most defensive but also not the most attacking.
“If Lionel Messi is talking and giving you advice you take it as he is by far the best player in the world. If he gives advice, you listen. Sometimes he says you have to be deeper or to the side, small things but it makes the difference.”
Barcelona beat off stiff competition to land De Jong from Ajax. The midfielder is considered to be one of Europe’s brightest midfield talents and cost Barca €75 million-plus €11m in variables.
Are Barcelona Getting the Best Out of De Jong?
De Jong has been a regular fixture in Barcelona’s midfield this season, making 36 appearances in all competitions. Yet there is still plenty of debate over whether Barca are getting the best out of their talented new star.
National team manager Ronald Koeman told Catalunya Radio his best position is where Sergio Busquets currently plays for Barcelona.
“I think De Jong is a player who can adapt to a new position in midfield, playing a little further forward. But I still think his best position is just in front of the back four – where Busquets plays. That’s his best position- where he plays for the national team and where he played with Ajax.”
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag agrees and told Ziggo Sport that the midfielder is better in a deeper position where he can orchestrate the play.
“He’s not a goalscorer. He’s the player who supplies… who supplies the teammates who give the assists or who score goals from their position.”
De Jong does look to be the player who can be the long-term replacement for Busquets. The Spaniard is a product of the club’s famous La Masia academy and has been a key part of the side for over a decade. Yet he will turn 32 in July and is heading towards retirement.
De Jong Living the Dream at Barcelona
De Jong made it clear when he was unveiled as a Barcelona player that it was a “dream” to join the Catalan giants, and he also talked about why he has such affection for the club.
“They were my favorite club outside of the Netherlands. When they came and showed they were really interested they made the choice easier.
“Sometimes when I’m driving to the training ground you see the weather and there are these moments when you think ‘I always wanted this as a kid, it’s a dream’ – I’m really happy.”
Barcelona and De Jong are close to a return to La Liga action with the competition set to resume on Thursday after a three-month suspension. The defending champions’ first game is away at Real Mallorca on Saturday.