Jorginho at Chelsea, Fernandinho at Manchester City, Sergio Busquets at Barcelona, Frenkie De Jong at Ajax. Does the youngster belong amongst this group of names as one of the best in their position? He has certainly been making waves in the Netherlands this last year, but is he on the way to becoming one of the best in the business?
De Jong was born in the Netherlands and began his professional footballing career coming up through Willem II’s youth system. After a few years in their youth side, he moved to Ajax, where he played two seasons in the reserves. He has since broken through into their first team and at only 21 years old, has only been a regular in Ajax’s team for the last year or so.
His first few seasons at at one of Europe’s best breeding grounds for young footballing talent has meant that De Jong has drawn interest from some European giants, including the likes of Barcelona and Manchester City. He has grown rapidly into a starlet of Dutch football, and alongside Matthijs De Ligt, has put Ajax back on the European map.
When you look back at one of the greats of Dutch football, Johan Cruyff, you see a leader, even from such a young age. He used to conduct his teammates around the pitch, those who were far older than he was, he was an orchestrator and he was the composer. The father of ‘Total Football’.
Some of those qualities you can see exhibited in Frenkie De Jong. He has composure and intuition beyond his years. He exhibits that commanding presence in the centre of the pitch that now defines his play.
Frenkie de Jong’s passing vs. Germany in the first 45 minutes:
43 passes completed
100% passing accuracy
The conductor of the orchestra pic.twitter.com/yCE94oSTaN
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 19, 2018
His style is a joy to watch. He is elegant on the pitch, his head is always up, scanning those in front and behind him. He keeps the ball close to his feet when it arrives, but he seems to make decisions about where the ball will go before he even has it. He is quick, composed, intricate and he can improvise.
The most significant thing though, is that he likes to take risks. A tricky long pass, a zigzag run through the heart of midfield. Wherever it is he comes to claim the ball, he will never look backwards or sideways – he will always try to find that pass that breaks the line, or the run that breaks the midfield down. The risks that he is willing to take, is what makes him so desirable to so many top clubs.
When learning his trade at Ajax, De Jong said: “My quality is my intuition, I can not just ignore that, if I did that I would be one more and there are a thousand of them, I often understand what the coach asks of me, but then I do my thing on the pitch,” when speaking to Voetbol international.
De Jong has played 18 games for club and country this season. In those games, he has started in three separate positions. As a young player, he is such an impressive student of the game and he has learnt so quickly what is required of him in each position. He has proved that he can adapt and improvise under pressure. His versatility is a massive strength that any manager in the world would love to have in their players.
At 21 he is far from the finished article, and he has a fantastic opportunity ahead of him to refine his trademark. He is prone to indolence every now and again. He perhaps lacks some of the defensive tackling and conditioning qualities that would make him a shoo-in for almost any side, but he is young and he will learn. Perhaps it is best for him to learn that now, at Ajax, where he has time on his side, before he inevitably steps up to join the big fish.
When you look at those whose position he occupies. The likes of Jorginho, Busquets and Fernandinho. He possesses the qualities that they elicit time and time again. At such a young age with time to grow and nurture his talent, he will become one of the stars of the modern game. Where he will go, only time will tell, but playing under some of the best coaches in the world, and playing with some of the best players in the world is not too far round the corner.