Interviews

Let’s Talk: Frenkie de Jong, Guardiola’s man to succeed Fernandinho (with @TheEuropeanLad)


Fred joined United (thanks Jose!), Jorginho chose Chelsea — so who will Manchester City bring in to replace Fernandinho in years to come? Three names top the rumor mill… Tanguy Ndombele, Ruben Neves and the subject of our piece today, Frenkie de Jong.

It’s smart to take everything the newspapers say with a pinch of salt, but word is that Frenkie De Jong — Ajax and Holland’s 21 year old rising star — is the ‘Chosen One’ for Pep Guardiola in midfield.

But who is Frenkie de Jong and how good is he? I spoke to local Ajax fan @TheEuropeanLad to find out more about a superstar in the making who linked not only with Man City, but Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Thanks for talking to us. To start, what can you tell us about Frenkie de Jong — his background in football, his personality?

Frenkie de Jong started his professional career at Dutch Eredivisie club Willem II – the only club he played for at a professional level before joining Ajax. He made his debut under Peter Bosz in 2016, together with Abdelhak Nouri, who collapsed on the next summer as most of the people will remember.

Frenkie is a very humble and open guy who – if you watch him during interviews – actually always smiles and laughs, and is always positive. There’s no one in Holland that I can think of that dislikes him, he is a very kind and positive person.

People are curious about Frenkie’s playing style because he’d be Fernandinho’s successor but he doesn’t seem to be a like-for-like replacement. How would you describe his playing style as a midfielder?

A replacement for Fernandinho is something that shouldn’t even be mentioned. I personally believe that no player can ever be another player in terms of quality. Each player is different and if you watch both players for 90 minutes, you will see tons of differences, the same goes for De Jong and Fernandinho. His playing style is a joy to watch. He has this elegant walk with the ball that I love so much about him. His head up high, the ball close to his feet, always knowing what he will do next, and always wanting to take risks. This is something Guardiola really loves and something that is needed in order to break down certain opponents. This risk in his game is also one of his most important features why so many of the top European clubs want him so badly. Whenever this guy receives the ball, he won’t look sideways or behind him, he will always try to find the pass between the lines to break down the opponents midfield. Apart from that he also has a unique long/short pass in his feet. He is brilliant on and of the ball.

He only became a regular for Ajax last season so I guess it’s natural to ask — is he ready for a top European club?

For me, he is ready for a top European club. I’ve now seen him play mostly 90 minutes for the past 2 years and I can say that he is ready, especially under a good manager in a team that suits his style of play. Manchester City would obviously be ideal for him in that aspect. In every European game he performed amazingly well, especially in the Champions League, which Ajax are playing in this season. But even in the national team of Holland he has already become one of the most crucial players together with Depay, Van Dijk and De Ligt, in my opinion. A new generation of players that is stepping up with Frenkie among them who has – together with De Ligt – everything in him to become a world class player.

How good can he become working with Pep Guardiola? What are his strengths and weaknesses? Is he good enough to be City’s Sergio Busquets or do you think his level is below that?

There is only one manager that I would want to see him play under and that’s Guardiola. I think Frenkie de Jong is exactly what Pep demands from a player in that position. Guardiola wants someone in that role who asks for the ball because he knows he won’t pass it backwards or sideways, but because he can open up the opponent with either a pass between the lines or a dribble. Frenkie de Jong bosses both of those things. Under Guardiola he can only become better. Eventually I believe he can become a much better player than Fernandinho in that position, the only thing Fernandinho is still superior in is his tackling and physical condition. That’s something he still needs to work on, especially if he is to play in the Premier League.

I understand that he can also play as a defender in addition to his central midfield role. Do you think Pep would use him in a back 3?

If Guardiola needs to use him in defence, he will. We all know Guardiola, and we all know he would do it. He did it with Busquets at Barcelona, and I am 100% certain he would do the same with Frenkie at Man City. There are absolutely no risk in doing it, Frenkie played there dozens of times at Ajax and I can recommend everyone to watch his highlights vs PSV (at home) last season where he played one of his most brilliant matches for Ajax, as a defender!

Who do you think gets Frenkie? Man City, Barcelona or Real Madrid?

You can erase Real Madrid there, haha. He will not go there, 100%. For me, it’s between Manchester City and Barcelona, and no other club. Frenkie de Jong has multiple times said that he would love to play for Barcelona one day, and that he still wants to play with Messi before he retires. I think I have seen over 15 interviews with him and Barcelona really is his dream club, he has not ever mentioned Manchester City but that doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t care about money. If the owners (and perhaps Guardiola) will sit down with him and talk with him, he could sign for Manchester City without any doubts afterwards. Because that’s how it also went when he signed for Ajax. Overmars brought him to the club, showed him around, put his trust in him, and signed him. PSV was very close to signing him, but my club got him. Thankfully! The same could happen with Barca/Man City.

On a related topic, tell us a little about Matthijs de Ligt — City are not as strongly linked with him as De Jong but there are reports he could be Kompany’s replacement. Is he the real deal?

Matthijs de Ligt will be among the 5 greatest defenders in the world in only a few years time, if he’s not already. I have not seen a single bad game from him in the past 3 years. He is an absolute tank who controls every aspect of the game. Passing, defending, heading, pace, intelligence – everything. Ajax had some brilliant players and talents the past years such as Eriksen, Suárez, Davinson Sanchez, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, etc. But for me, Frenkie de Jong and Mathijs de Ligt are on another level. I expect De Ligt to go for around £70 million and Frenkie de Jong for around £60 million.

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