Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has endured a turbulent time at the club since he arrived in the summer of 2019. In no small part down to the club itself, but it appears he is on an upward trajectory, with the confidence of Xavi Hernandez behind him.
Since he transferred from Ajax, de Jong has had four managers, has been knocked out of the Champions League group stages twice and won a singular Copa del Rey. Not exactly what he was expecting when he arrived in Catalonia, and that is without mentioning his personal situation.
Originally tipped to be Sergio Busquets’ long-term successor, or at perhaps to play with him in a double-pivot, he has almost exclusively been used as an ‘interior’, further up in the midfield. That is in part due to Busquets’ quality, his own struggles there and his elevated performance further forward.
For his entire time as Barcelona manager, Xavi has spoken of de Jong as an interior rather than a ‘pivot’, claiming that to be his best position. As Busquets, 34, nears the end of his Barcelona career without a clear replacement, the question has been asked again about whether de Jong could step in.
It appears Xavi has changed his mind, at least as a temporary option. Before the World Cup break, de Jong played twice as a pivot. In Barcelona’s first game back from the break, it was de Jong who started as pivot, and against Atletico Madrid he started in a deeper role with Busquets.
Those changes on the pitch are backed up by information from Sport, who say that Xavi will use de Jong as Busquets replacement until the end of the season, and perhaps even beyond.
With Gavi and Pedri performing at a high level, if de Jong could become a quality pivot, it would solve a significant issue for Barcelona. Currently the succession plan for Busquets is one of the biggest priorities at Barcelona, and bringing in a quality replacement will be a costly endeavour.