Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has had a decent first season at the Camp Nou, but one of the things he has found the most beneficial in his development and acclimatisation is the advice he receives from Lionel Messi.
Having gone from playing as a solo ‘pivot’ at Ajax to a slightly more advanced at Barcelona, or even a double pivot with Sergio Busquets, the 23-year-old has had to adapt.
“At Ajax and [in] the Dutch squad, I’ve had a different role, but we’re playing with a double six [two defensive midfielders],” De Jong told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I have to adapt and it’s going OK, but I can improve.
“I’m at my best when I’m not the most defensive but also not the most attacking [midfielder].
“If Lionel Messi is talking and giving you advice, you take it as he is by far the best player in the world. If he gives advice, you listen.
“Sometimes he says you have to be deeper or to the side, small things but it makes the difference.”
When discussing his move to the Catalan club, which was announced in January 2019 before De Jong helped lead Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals, he makes it clear that there was only one team in his mind.
“It was my dream to play for Barcelona,” said De Jong, who had watched their games while on holiday in Spain.
“They were my favourite club outside of the Netherlands.
“When they came and showed they were really interested, they made the choice easier.
“At the beginning I didn’t have the feeling Barcelona really wanted me.
“But they said you have a good chance of being a starter and it was really easy for me.
“He [Josep Maria Bartomeu] talked about the other clubs and [Pep] Guardiola and said when he was at Barcelona he was amazing.
“He said Guardiola was the greatest manager but told me, ‘if you want to enjoy your life, you want to play in Barcelona’.
“Sometimes when I’m driving to the training ground, you see the weather and there are these moments when you think, ‘I always wanted this as a kid, it’s a dream’ – I’m really happy.”
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