Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong was brilliant for the Netherlands against Estonia

This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…

Frenkie de Jong arrived at Barcelona as one of the most promising young midfielders in the whole world.

That the 22-year-old scooped the best young Dutch footballer of the year award and also UEFA’s best midfielder of the 2018/19 season speaks volumes about the scope of his potential.

These were not small achievements by any stretch of the imagination and De Jong very much deserved the acclaim.

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But the start to his career in the Catalan capital has been far from perfect. Barcelona registered only one win the first three games they played in the new 2019/20 La Liga season, and tallied a defeat and a draw in the process as well.

Even though he played in all three of the clashes, the young Dutchman couldn’t really guide his team to glory. This was mostly due to the fact Ernesto Valverde deployed him in a rather new and unknown position and, naturally, his performances dipped slightly when he was away from his preferred role.

The fans were, of course, having none of it and they were quick to bash Valverde, emphasising that he will ruin the best midfielder in the world.

But De Jong was not phased by that in the slightest and maybe the biggest proof of that lies in his latest performance for his national team.

The 22-year-old was all over the pitch, tallying 86 touches and a sublime figure of 95% passing accuracy. He also accompanied that with three key passes, 4/4 long balls and 5/5 dribbles completed. Even by his high standards, that was truly a wonderful display that no doubt helped the team secure their convincing win over Estonia.

But looking at De Jong’s heatmap, we can see that he was actually played on the left and a bit higher up the pitch than we’re used to seeing him. And that’s exactly the role he was given by Valverde at Barcelona.

It seems that the 22-year-old is already adapting to the new role he’s operating in and Valverde should actually be taking notes and trying to understand what exactly needs changing because, if this game is any indication, it’s clear De Jong can definitely perform on the left.

Having such a talented and brilliant player is very much a luxury and it does feel like he will adapt to almost anything the coach throws at him.

Maybe the Blaugrana manager can really learn something from watching De Jong play for his national team and then put it to good use back in Catalonia.

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