Frenkie de Jong was the subject of intense transfer speculation linking him to Manchester United in the summer, but the Barcelona midfielder has revealed why he decided to stay put.
The midfield metronome was at the heart of a long-winded transfer saga that dominated the back pages for much of the summer. Barca were thought to be keen on ushering De Jong to the exit doors in order to ease their financial difficulties.
It was said that Man Utd agreed a £63.5m deal to bring the Dutchman to Old Trafford, but a deal ultimately failed to materialise. Instead, Erik ten Hag bolstered his midfield with the acquisition of Casemiro from Real Madrid for around £60m.
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Despite his decision to stick around at the Camp Nou, De Jong has found playing time under midfield immortal Xavi hard to come by. The 25-year-old has started just three games in La Liga, and was benched as Barca deployed teenage duo Pedri and Gavi in the Champions League against Bayern Munich.
Now on international duty with the Netherlands for Oranje‘s 2-0 Nations League win over Poland on Thursday night and Sunday’s showdown with Belgium, De Jong has been speaking about his mindset during a hectic summer.
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He told NOS: “I had already decided in May that I wanted to stay. So I was very calm myself. I now feel welcome at the club. Nothing has ever changed with my teammates.”
He also spoke about his lack of minutes: “I didn’t start against Bayern in the Champions League. You want to play important games. When I play less, I do notice it. Not really in terms of the technical aspect because you still know how to play football, but more so in the physical aspect.”
Although more of a midfield destroyer than a tempo-setter in the mould of De Jong, as the comparative radar from the 2021/22 La Liga season above would suggest (boasting a far superior passing accuracy) Casemiro is certainly no flat-footed laggard when it comes to distribution.
In fact, midfield legend Paul Scholes has recently waxed lyrical about Casemiro’s passing range.
“He surprised me a little bit with his forward passing, his range of passing,” Scholes told BT Sport after Man Utd beat Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League.
“I thought he was more of a winner, getting the ball back in midfield. It was Kroos and Modric last year; he has more to his game and showed more of a range to his game.”