The Netherlands international sees his long-term future in midfield and is delighted to be surrounded by home-grown youngsters
Frenkie de Jong has made it clear he is happy to feature in defence when the situation requires it, but he does not see himself emulating Ronald Koeman and becoming a mainstay at centre-back for Barcelona.
The Netherlands international has been one of the driving forces behind Barca’s resurgence this season with a string of impressive performances from midfield, only to then be moved to centre-back due to a number of injuries in defence.
De Jong has continued to thrive in the role, earning comparisons to Koeman – who starred as a ball-playing centre-back during his playing days – but the 23-year-old is keen to return to a central midfield position as soon as he can.
What’s been said?
De Jong told Goal: “I don’t see myself playing as a central defender for the rest of my career. For now it is okay, but I prefer to play in the middle, in midfield.
“But if I have to play in another position [to help the team], I will do it.”
Emergence of Moriba
De Jong’s move into defence has allowed La Masia graduate Ilaix Moriba to make the step up into the first-team.
The 18-year-old, who was handed his first-team debut by Koeman in the 2020-21 season, has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in Spanish football in years and ranked at No.50 in Goal‘s NXGN list of the best wonderkids in football.
Indeed, Moriba has made six appearances in total for Barca thus far this season, scoring his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win away at Osasuna back in March.
With the likes of Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Oscar Mingueza also part of the first-team set-up at Camp Nou, De Jong has highlighted the importance of the presence of homegrown players in the squad.
He added: “It is very important to have players who came through the academy. They have the club’s DNA, have a lot of quality and are very important for the club.”
What’s left to play for this season?
De Jong and Barca are in the race to win the Liga title this season, with the Catalans having cut the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid to just one point with nine games remaining.
Koeman’s side are unbeaten in all competitions since February 16 and despite having come unstuck against Paris Saint-Germain to exit the Champions League at the last-16 stage, they have won their last six in a row in La Liga.
An unlikely title win would be seen as a positive season for the Blaugrana, who also have a Copa del Rey final against Athletic Club to look forward to on April 17.
However, the question marks surrounding Lionel Messi’s long-term future at the club will undoubtedly dominate the headlines in the summer, with the Argentine yet to commit to a new contract and there being the possibility he’ll leave for free.