When Koeman arrived at Camp Nou he found his young compatriot in a fog of confusion, demotivated by the complacency of a damaged dressing room. His attitude has always been impeachable, but the quality of his game was diluted by a discontent hierarchy.
De Jong loves life in Barcelona, happy living next to the sea and with a pleasant climate, learning Spanish at enviable speed. But on the pitch he was a spare part.
El gol de la REMONTADA del @FCBarcelona_es 💥
— DAZN España (@DAZN_ES) January 27, 2021
Koeman quickly injected impetus into his game, instructing him to contribute more in the final third and score more goals. Koeman is demanding in general but especially so of De Jong, because he knows his potential. Koeman instructed him that he needs to be more adventurous in his passing, that it’s not enough to play risk-free horizontal balls.
It’s paid off. De Jong has scored five goals since the beginning of the season, four since the turn of the year, and is playing with a previously unseen assertiveness.
Johan Cruyff did the same thing with Koeman. He helped the Dutch defender overcome external doubts about his physique and his game, squeezing and pushing him until he became key in his system and fundamental in his playing style.
He trusted Koeman to room with a young Pep Guardiola in order to help him learn how to behave as a professional footballer, a role you could see someone like De Jong performing in the future.