Why Frenkie De Jong Must Choose Barcelona Over Man City & PSG to Fulfil His Potential

?Ajax has been a proving ground for more young players than almost any other club in the world, yet it would be no exaggeration to say that Frenkie de Jong – along with his inseparable teammate Matthijs de Ligt – has generated more excitement than any Dutch player in years.

Nobody seems to know what to make of De Jong. Compared to Franz Beckenbauer because of his tactical flexibility and Johan Cruyff because of his skillset, De Jong is not really comparable to either player. At the age of 21, he is already very much his own man.

No wonder, then, that he has been linked with a move to some of the biggest clubs in Europe. ?Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and ?Manchester City have taken a keen interest in the young midfielder, and a bidding war between those three clubs could escalate to enormous fees.

Holland  v Germany  -UEFA Nations league

Last week, it was reported that PSG had stolen a lead in the race to sign De Jong, ?with rumours of a €75m bid, which would smash the Eredivisie transfer record. For a club which survives on revenues up to seven times smaller than Europe’s richest teams, such a bid would be very difficult to turn down.

In some respects, De Jong going to PSG would make a lot of sense. The French champions are resigned to losing Adrien Rabiot at the end of this season as he has repeatedly rebuffed attempts to extend his contract beyond 2019. De Jong would be the perfect upgrade, and Ligue 1 would be an achievable step up from the Eredivisie.

But would this really be the best move for De Jong’s career? There is no doubting that PSG have some world class players that De Jong would love to play alongside, but the quality of the opposition in Ligue 1 is distinctly lacking. Les Parisiens are already 13 points clear at the top of the division and on course for a sixth title in seven years.

This lack of competition leaves PSG ill-prepared for the challenges of the Champions League, usually resulting in an early knockout stage exit. De Jong needs to be testing himself against top class opposition on a more regular basis if he wants to continue developing as a player.

Watford FC v Manchester City - Premier League

He would certainly be able to do this at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola, whose high-tempo, possession-based style is one that De Jong has expressed great admiration for, telling the Guardian: “I love this style. Get the ball back quickly, then play possession with so many combinations.

De Jong is a perfect fit for Guardiola’s system. He can carry the ball out the from the back and glide past defenders, he possesses excellent vision in his range of passing, and his decision-making in congested situations shows maturity beyond his years. He is also very versatile, capable of slotting in at centre back when called upon.

There will soon be a ?Fernandinho-shaped vacancy to fill at the Etihad Stadium and De Jong is one of two likely options to replace him. The other is Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombélé, who may have leapfrogged De Jong on Guardiola’s wish list with his performances against City in the Champions League.

At Barcelona, a similar vacancy will soon become available. 30-year-old Sergio Busquets looks like he could continue playing for several more years, but it would be naive of Barca not to have a ready-made replacement in the wings. Who better for De Jong to learn from than one of the greatest defensive midfielders of the modern era?

FC Barcelona v Sevilla - La Liga Santander

What Barcelona can offer that neither PSG nor Manchester City can is consistency. They have a footballing identity to uphold regardless of who is currently in charge, so their playing style is less likely to change under different regimes. City may have a temporary Spanish flavour, but there is no guarantee of that lasting beyond Guardiola’s tenure.

The link between Barcelona and Ajax goes way back. Johan Cruyff famously played for both clubs, and he was one of many great players to do so, along with Michael Laudrup, Patrick Kluivert and the De Boer brothers, to name a few. The two clubs share a sporting philosophy; both are seen as purveyors of how football should be played.

This Ajax team is closer in style and quality to Barcelona than any Ajax team in over a decade. They have proved this by reaching the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2006, running Bayern Munich close in Group E. The gulf in class, and the size of the step up, is not as extreme as some would have you believe.

PEC Zwolle v Ajax - Dutch Eredivisie

De Jong must show that he has the ambition to match his considerable talent. Now is not the time to tread water in Ligue 1, where PSG’s financial dominance could keep him locked down for years to come, or to join Manchester City for a fleeting chance of playing under a manager who rarely stays anywhere for long.

He may balk at comparisons with Cruyff, but if De Jong is to achieve his full potential, the finest Dutchman ever to play the game has shown him that the Nou Camp is the place to do so.

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Barcelona Lose Possession Battle in Champions League for First Time Since 2006

?Barcelona failed to have over 50% possession in a Champions League tie for the first time since 2006 in their draw with Tottenham Hotspur at the Camp Nou.

Spurs sealed progression to the Champions League knockout stages with an impressive performance in Spain. Although the north London club did go 1-0 down, they fought back and controlled the majority of the game before Lucas Moura’s 85th minute equaliser. Mauricio Pochettino’s side were good value for their draw, and looked more like the home side than Barca did.

FC Barcelona v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Group B

The match was historic not just for Tott?enham though, as it marked the first time that Barca had less than 50% possession in a Champions League match since a 2006 clash with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. In that particular case the Catalans had just 42% possession of the ball.

Since the emergence of Pep Guardiola and the ‘Tiki-Taka’ era, Barca have been renowned for their dominance of the ball. Guardiola’s Barca would pass teams to death and their intricate patterns would confuse even the best of defences. It also helped having the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta in the side.

Barcelona v Athletic Club - Copa del Rey Final

The midfield fielded by Ernesto Valverde against Tottenham didn’t quite have the same style to it as previous generations however. Ivan Rakitic, Carles Alena and Arthur have barely played together, and as a result Barca didn’t have their usual midfield dominance. 

Spurs youngster Harry Winks had no such trouble however, finishing the match with an impressive 87% pass accuracy, suggesting that he’s ready for the big stage.

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Barcelona Eye Surprise Move for Alvaro Morata as Chelsea Flop Seeks Stamford Bridge Exit

Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata is pushing for a move away from Stamford Bridge, with reports in Spain claiming that the striker’s agent has offered him to Barcelona.

Despite Chelsea’s improvement under Maurizio Sarri this season, Morata has been unable to find his shooting boots on a consistent basis, with five goals in 14 Premier League appearances since August.


?Barcelona-based outlet ?RAC1 has reported that ?Morata’s agent has offered the Spaniard to Ernesto Valverde’s side after meetings between the two parties to ‘sound out the situation’.

?AS adds that Barcelona have viewed these talks in a ‘positive light’ and will now decide if and when negotiations will commence for Morata to join the club next summer.

Morata joined Chelsea from Barca’s hated rivals ?Real Madrid in 2017 and scored six goals in his first six Premier League appearances. However, he has been unable to rediscover that form, with just ten goals in his subsequent 39 league outings.

It remains to be seen how Morata would fit in at the Camp Nou amid Barcelona’s attacking riches which include ?Lionel Messi, ?Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Malcom and Munir El Haddadi.

Although he has failed to take his goalscoring form into the Premier League, Morata was much more comfortable in La Liga, where he scored 31 goals in two spells at Real Madrid.

Deportivo de La Coruna v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

In between those spells, he scored 27 goals in two seasons for ?Juventus, including the strike which knocked out Real Madrid in the 2014/15 Champions League – the last time Los Blancos were eliminated from the competition.

Morata also has a decent strike rate at international level, with 13 goals in 27 appearances for Spain.

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Juan Miranda Reveals What Lionel Messi Told Him Ahead of Champions League Debut Against Tottenham

?Barcelona youngster Juan Miranda has revealed that he received messages of support from the senior players at the club before making his Champions League debut in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.

With Barcelona having already secured a top spot in their group, manager Ernesto Valverde opted to rest several of his star players. Left-back Jordi Alba was one of those to be rested, and 18-year-old Miranda was given his debut in the tournament in Alba’s absence.

FC Barcelona v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Group B

Quoted by ?Sport after the game, Miranda admitted that many of the senior players, including ?Lionel Messi, offered him advice ahead of the exciting occasion. 

Miranda revealed: “They told me to relax, to be myself. With these players, everything is easier. [Messi] told me to enjoy the moment.” 

He enjoyed an impressive Champions League debut, despite conceding a late equaliser as Lucas Moura scored to ensure ?Tottenham’s qualification to the knockout stages of the tournament. After the game, Miranda admitted he will work hard to continue to progress as a player.

He said: “Camp Nou is a huge and impressive stadium. I wanted to do everything well, but it’s true not everything came off. I will keep working hard with the B team. Jordi Alba is very good and has a long career left ahead of him.” 

Miranda has now made three appearances for Barcelona, having already featured in the Copa del Rey earlier in the season. He was part of the Barcelona Under-19 side who won the UEFA Youth League last season, and is regarded as a potential future member of the senior side.

FC Barcelona v Villarreal - La Liga Santander

He is currently behind Alba in the pecking order at the Camp Nou. However, Alba has been heavily linked with a move to ?Manchester United, with his contract expiring in 18 months, meaning there may be more opportunities for Miranda in the future.

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Barcelona 1-1 Tottenham: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Late Lucas Moura Goal Books Last 16 Spot

?The stipulations were simple – match Inter’s result and Spurs will go through.

Ousmane Dembele tore up the Tottenham script in the seventh minute, however, as he capitalised on a lapse in concentration from Kyle Walker-Peters and then kept his composure to slot under Hugo Lloris.

Imagine Mauricio Pochettino’s relief, then, to hear shortly after of the news of a PSV goal at the San Siro. Back on track – half way there.


Spurs came out all guns blazing from the half-time break, crafting four clear-cut chances in quick succession, but Spurs’ typically clinical front four were misfiring.

This turned out to be the story of much of the second half, with Cillissen making a string of world-class saves to keep Pochettino’s men at arms length. That is, until, the 85th minute when Lucas Moura converted a low Harry Kane cross. A crucial goal following news of an Inter equaliser.
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On the final whistle, the ?Tottenham staff and players alike turned to their noisy travelling contingent of supporters whose celebrations told them all they need to know. Spurs go marching on.

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Barcelona

Key Talking Point

?Barcelona’s second-string team were overrun in possession for much of the game and created very few chances after the opening goal. For much of the second half, they relied on the talents of their back up goalkeeper who certainly put it a performance first choice stopper ter Stegen would have been proud of.

As the Spanish media reported, this game was more about retaining their honour than anything else, with the home side going into it having already wrapped up the group. It became obvious that this was the case, as they sat back and soaked up waves of Tottenham pressure. Lionel Messi came on late but had little impact and their best chances fell to Philippe Coutinho who struck the same post twice.

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Cillessen (8); Semedo (7), Lenglet (5), Vermaelen (6), Miranda (7); Rakitic (5), Alena (5), Arthur (7); Dembele (8), Munir (5), Coutinho (7)

Substitutes: ter Stegen, Pique, Busquets (5), D. Suarez, Messi (5), Alba, Vidal


Star Man: Ousmane Dembele

In Lionel Messi’s absence, Dembele was the player, especially in the first half, who posed the Spurs back line the most problems. He created his own goal by winning possession off of Kyle Walker-Peters and then went on to take his opportunity with the aplomb one may expect to see from his Argentinian team mate.

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Worst Player: Clement Lenglet

The second-string centre back was overrun by Tottenham’s attacking threats and gifted Spurs several chances to edge in front of the Catalan giants. The 23-year-old will not feature much in the first team this term, but has done himself no favours after tonight’s poor performance.


Tottenham

Key Talking Point

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Despite getting through by the skin of their teeth, Tottenham got the job done when it looked as though it might not be their night. The Spurs narrative on nights like this is they will crumble and ‘do a Spurs’, but tonight was different. Yes, they were boosted by events in Milan, but wouldn’t have gone through without finding the net at Camp Nou, which is no mean feat, even against a heavily rotated Barca side.

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Player Ratings

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Starting XI: Lloris (7); Walker-Peters (4), Alderweireld (6), Vertonghen (6), Rose (9); Winks (8), Sissoko (7); Eriksen (7), Dele (6), Son (6); Kane (7)

Substitutes: Davies, Dier, Lamela (6), Lucas (10), Llorente (2)


Star Man: Danny Rose

FC Barcelona v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Group B

Tottenham’s full-back was immense tonight and proved his worth on one of the grandest stages of them all. His tough tackling and attacking ventures gave Tottenham something different down the left flank and his desire to secure the result was contagious throughout the Spurs team. The left-back did spurn a late opportunity, though it turned out to be academic in the end.


Worst Player: Kyle Walker-Peters

Spurs’ other full-back had a Champions League debut from hell. After giving the ball away to Dembele, Walker-Peters failed to recover in time to stop the Frenchman taking it all the way and from that point onwards the 21-year-old never looked comfortable. 

After picking up a booking in the first half to boot, Walker-Peters was spared of his Camp Nou nightmare in the 61st minute when he was replaced by Erik Lamela.

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Looking Ahead

Both sides will be going into the hat in the last 16 as they look to continue their impressive Champions League campaigns. 

For Tottenham, they will be playing post-Christmas European football for the second time in consecutive years, but will be looking to go a step better this time round after being dumped out in the round of 16 last year.

Barça meanwhile will look to bring back their heavy hitters when the Champions League resumes in the new year, as Ernesto Valverde’s side seek European domination once more.

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