Amidst all the rivalry and hatred within the modern footballing community, an outpouring of open respect from a fanbase towards an opposing player is a rarity –
The 22-year-old trotted off the field with ten minutes to play, but the damage had been well and truly done during the starlet’s devastating spell in the heart of the Barcelona midfield, as the La Liga champions cruised to a 3-0 victory over their hosts.
Sometimes a player comes along with such confidence, technical ability and an understanding of the game that he immediately draws comparisons with some of the greats who have graced our beautiful game over the years.
De Jong’s transfer to La Blaugrana and his initial performances allowed the Camp Nou faithful to dream of a new Andres Iniesta, a second-coming of Xavi, or the heir to the ageing Sergio Busquets’ throne.
It’s impossible to pigeon-hole De Jong when it comes to your typical midfield roles, given his ability to adapt to any position across the middle of the park. The former Ajax man is tidy in possession, quick across the ground and has a lovely eye for a pass.
But there’s something special about
The youngster’s calmness on the ball is unnerving for his opponents, who are left unsure whether to allow him to wander towards his own corner flag to collect possession, or to press and watch him glide effortlessly past each tackle.
De Jong’s display against Eibar was possibly his best in a Barcelona shirt, and the true range of his talents were witnessed by the fortunate crowd in attendance. The Netherlands international dictated proceedings from start to finish, demanding the ball in every possible occasion, and releasing his teammates with intelligent one-or two-touch passes.
Lionel Messi: “Frenkie de Jong likes to have the ball, play short passes, pass between the lines, and he is very fast. He is a very complete footballer.” pic.twitter.com/RK3sU79xmM
— Barcelona Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) October 17, 2019
His speed across the pitch is also frightening, and he often wriggles free of tight marking, only to burn away from his opponent with a lightning burst of pace and kickstart another dangerous Barça attack.
Ever since Xavi and Iniesta walked off into the sunset with their heads held high, their legacies at Camp Nou have only grown in stature, given the Catalan club’s failure to adequately replace the pair in each passing transfer window.
In the former, Los Cules had a pass-master, someone who set the tempo and picked killer passes for his grateful strikers. In the latter,
In De Jong, Barcelona have all of those attributes rolled into one player.
Frenkie de Jong has shown signs of high intelligence that only Iniesta/Xavi have previously shown in Barça’s midfield?
This kid (hopefully under Xavi) has a very bright future ahead? pic.twitter.com/wrJjVEnFpx
— Barcelona Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) October 19, 2019
It’s far too early to say whether Barcelona’s midfield prayers have been answered; you only need to look at