Frenkie de Jong has explained that he prefers the role he plays for the Netherlands national team rather than his position at Barcelona, amid questions over his future at Camp Nou.
Central midfield is an area in which United need to bolster their options ahead of several key departures this term. De Jong has been identified as a candidate, according to reports in the Catalan press, who claim new United boss Erik ten Hag is hoping he can convince his former player to join him in the Premier League.
Ten Hag coached the midfielder during his tenure at Ajax, but the midfielder operates in a different role for Barca since his switch three years ago. He plays on the right-hand side of a three-man midfield at the Camp Nou, with Sergio Busquets operating in the deep-lying midfield anchor role.
However, he excelled for the Netherlands as they romped to a 4-1 opening day Nations League victory away in Belgium – with De Jong operating in a different position. The midfielder was the deepest of three central midfielders in a 3-5-2 system and frequently received the ball to feet from the side’s three defenders, before moving the ball forward and playing a key role in the side’s transition.
The midfielder talked through this after the victory for the Dutch national side, explaining why this suited his game better: “I play a lot differently here than I do at Barça. I think this suits me much better.” De Jong added: “I like to be the first player to receive the ball from the defenders.”
De Jong moved to Barca in the summer of 2019 for £63million (€75m). The Catalans are struggling financially and there were suggestions that they might welcome a hefty bid for some of their players, but the Dutchman is among those they would be more inclined to keep. De Jong faces competition from the likes of Gavi and Pedri – teenage midfield stars at Camp Nou.
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Barca have a deal in place to sign midfielder Frank Kessie from Milan while Busquets still commands a starting spot in Xavi Hernandez’s side, while Nico Gonzalez has also broken through into the squad. United are short on central midfielders with Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba both leaving this summer as free agents, with only Scott McTominay and Fred remaining as naturals in the position.
De Jong provided the assist for Steven Bergwijn’s opening goal for the Dutch in their eye-catching victory and the Barcelona midfielder was arguably the standout player throughout the tie.
Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal, formerly of United, heaped special praise upon De Jong after the match: “It is always a victory for the collective, but there are people who can excel in the collective which is of course great. There are always stars in certain matches, but in this one, Frenkie de Jong and Steven Bergwijn, that was incredible how those two played.”