What we all were waiting for in the past 3 years, finally, seems to materialize. Frenkie de Jong, following his strong showings lately, took over the starting spot from Busquets, and we can start wondering whether it will remain a permanent switch or just an occasional solution based on the current form of the players.
In 2019, the young Dutchman was signed by Barcelona, with the purpose of becoming the heir to Sergio Busquets’s throne, but to this very day, they did not found what made them interested in him, and the veteran, although enjoyed redemption following Xavi’s arrival, became unmovable despite some obvious signs of aging.
The crisis went so far that in the summer that the club wanted to get rid of the Dutchman and his enormous wages, but failed to do so following continuous resistance and unwillingness to leave from the player’s side. With sudden competition arriving in the name of Franck Kessié to the midfield, one could be concerned about the former Ajax man getting some reasonable playtime even as a rotational option.
In the end, de Jong’s tale concluded as the symbol of loyalty, perseverance, and hard work, as he decided to stay, no matter the consequences and difficulties, and now we can say it paid off. With Busquets’s recent setback, de Jong got a golden opportunity to finally fill the place he was once predestined to, and he is seemingly on the right path.
Against Villarreal, he produced a decent performance, both on and off the ball. Although the pivot role requires other abilities than his main strengths, and his attacking impact is minimalized, his dribbles and long balls were immaculate (100% completion rate) alongside the obviously great pass accuracy (95%), which were crucial in launching the attacks.
For example, in the second and third goals, he was the one to drive the ball out of the defense into the final third before passing the ball, and just 3 passes, one dribble, and a clumsy finish after the ball left his feet, the ball ended in the back of the net.
What is more interesting, though, the Dutchman also excelled in the defensive phases too, which wasn’t typical of him previously. In numbers, he won all of his duels (10/10), 4/5 tackles, and frequently recovered the ball, precisely 9 times. His significant improvement also contains a more mature positioning and growing up to the role, which we look forward to seeing more about.