With FC Barcelona’s fresh competitive campaign set to get underway in under a fortnight, midfielder Frenkie de Jong has conceded an interview to Catalan daily newspaper SPORT where he claimed that Ronald Koeman already boasts a squad “to win everything” on offer in 2021/2022.
Now about to enter his third season in Blaugrana, the Dutchman found it “difficult” to say how he has improved since joining from Ajax in 2019, but thinks he has “grown a lot as a person and as a footballer as well”. “And I want to keep growing,” he added.
The 24-year-old batted off suggestions he has become a locker room heavyweight at the Camp Nou, by saying: “I’m still doing the same things I did when I came here. I am the same person and I am not going to change much in that.”
He also believes that being among the eleven most valuable players on the popular website Transfermarkt has no value, as “what has value is what you show on the field”.
“I think that for this season we have improved the squad, [and] we are growing as a team. It is the second year of the coach as well and usually you improve when it is the second year. I believe that next season we will have opportunities to fight and win important titles,” he stated on the upcoming season.
“Yes, of course, like everyone else,” he confirmed when asked if titles is what he wants above all, while also giving another affirmative “yes” when probed on whether Koeman’s squad already has what it takes to fight for top honors.
While Barca have had to tap up the market for free transfers due to their precarious financial predicament, De Jong believes that the mixture of youth and experience thrown together is what has revitalized the team in addition to last term’s Copa del Rey win, which has boosted morale.
“I think the atmosphere is very good now,” he said. “There is a lot of quality, the youngsters are talented and the squad is very strong this year. We will fight for everything.”
“That mix is very important,” he went on. “We have people with a lot of experience and a lot of quality, and young players with a lot of talent [who] want to show it.
“You always have to be optimistic. The culé [Barca fan] can be optimistic,” he said, boldly.
Admitting he was elated his compatriot Koeman stayed on in the dugout, De Jong described their relationship as “very good”.
“I have [already] known him from the Netherlands [national] team and he asks me to take responsibility and to improve every year. And nothing more,” said De Jong.
Memphis Depay is one of those free acquisitions that Barca have picked up without paying his former club – Lyon – a penny, and De Jong sees him as a player “with a lot of quality”.
“He can give us a lot because he has dribbling, goals, he can give assists, [and] he works for the team. I think the squad improves [with him],” said De Jong.
“Memphis is good in the group, the group is good with him and he is integrating well. It is also easier when you play well and that helps a lot,” added De Jong, before saying that he looks forward to giving his fellow Dutchman “many more” assists as seen on Saturday against Stuttgart in the 3-0 win at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
“I think his adaptation is going to be very fast, he is a player with a lot of quality. It will be good,” De Jong concluded, before also exalting the qualities of B team promises Nico Gonzalez and Gavi, who have similarly impressed in Barca’s friendlies thus far.
“Of course, with age you improve, you grow, but they have a lot of quality and I see them already playing in the first team,” he predicted.
On Lionel Messi, who is currently a free agent and will not return to training as planned today, De Jong said he hopes his skipper “comes back soon”.