Star midfielder Frenkie de Jong is currently suffering at FC Barcelona for a number of reasons.
Backed publicly by Xavi Hernandez, the Dutchman who joined from Ajax in 2019 for a fee exceeding $80mn currently has transfer speculation surrounding his name once more.
This is not only due to poor form as of late, which has contributed to Barca losing three home games on the bounce for the first time in club history. Simultaneously, the fact that his former coach in Amsterdam, Erik ten Hag, is heading to Manchester United in the summer means that the rumors of a switch to Old Trafford are gaining steam again.
But while the number of times De Jong has been substituted this season by Xavi is also said to be a source of anger – no better illustrated than the way he stormed down the tunnel after being hooked around the hour mark in the 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday – SPORT have also revealed other factors behind De Jong “fading away at FC Barcelona”.
Chief among them is said to be the dismissal of Ronald Koeman, which ironically came after losing by the exact same scoreline to Rayo in late October.
From their days in the Netherlands national team together, where Koeman was head coach before taking the Barca job while reappointed in the post following Louis Van Gaal’s cancer diagnosis, the pair have a special relationship on and off the pitch with their partners also close.
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According to SPORT, some sources in the Barca locker room think that Koeman’s firing could have contributed to a drop in morale, with De Jong enjoying an “untouchable role” on the Dream Team legend’s watch.
Due to Gavi’s emergence and Pedri’s rise to prominence, De Jong has often warmed the bench or is not allowed to end matches when selected having completed 90 minutes just once in his last 11 matches.
Against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League, he was a substitute in both the home and away legs, with Barca’s chances of silverware ended due to the 4-3 aggregate defeat to the Bundesliga underdogs.
SPORT note that Pedri’s absence until the end of the term through a hamstring knock has set things up for De Jong to “take a step forward”, but the Catalan paper, who gave him a 3/10 rating on Sunday, feels that he has “continued without progressing as expected”.
“His confidence level is suffering and now he doesn’t have Koeman’s stronghold to hold on to,” it is also said. But all De Jong can do is try to end the term in good spirits as uncertainty surrounds his future.