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Opinion: Frenkie de Jong’s evolution at Camp Nou

Frenkie de Jong Ajax Barcelona Ernesto Valverde
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The Dutch midfielder has played every single match for Barcelona but has seen his role change with his new employers.

Frenkie de Jong swapped Johan Cruyff Arena for the Camp Nou but on surface little has changed for the midfielder. The 22 year old was in demand and the Catalans swiftly secured his signature as Ajax’s dream run in UEFA Champions League continued.

The youngster was an ever present member of Ajax’s first team under Erik ten Hag, making 52 appearances in all competitions. He was instrumental as Matthijs de Ligt raised the Eredivisie title in May.

Ernesto Valverde regards the Gorinchem native as highly as ten Hag did, if not more. De Jong has been an ever present figure under the Spanish tactician, while Barcelona’s midfield has been juggled around.

While he has racked minutes under his belt, Arturo Vidal, Arthur, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets have split the other two midfield positions amongst them.

However, he has accrued appearances in Catalonia, his role is starkly different to what shot him to prominence. Gone are the days where de Jong would thunder into the opposition’s third and send a powerful shot down their goal.

New role bereft of creativity or action

This is not his role at Camp Nou. The neutrals who hailed him as the next reincarnation of Frank Lampard, must have been thoroughly disappointed.

Under Valverde, de Jong has a new role. He has to curb his creativity and attacking instincts because at Barcelona they have Messi. The Argentine’s role is defined, he is good at it and plays just infront of de Jong.

But surely more was expected from him. More than simple passes in the midfield. More than covering the right wing when everyone goes ahead. At least some shots on goal will be welcomed. A single shot from 17 fixtures is below par for a player who entertained all and sundry with his attacking forays.

Certainly Barcelona can use some range. Arthur cannot be the only midfielder who can do it. De Jong has proven he can provide that much needed extension on the pitch. But is he allowed to do that.

It is still early but as it stands, Frenkie de Jong’s evolving at the Camp Nou but not in the way everyone would have hoped. He is not the expressive midfielder which everyone expected him to be but is a lackey in a boring midfield.