Featured Interviews

Frenkie de Jong: “Any team would struggle without half of their attack”

Frenkie de Jong after the 3-0 loss against Benfica / PATRÍCIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
Frenkie de Jong after the 3-0 loss against Benfica / PATRÍCIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

Frenkie de Jong spoke with the Dutch media about his performances, the pressure on coach Ronald Koeman, having to carry the team and more.

Frenkie (24) was interviewed by the Dutch press ahead of the game he’ll play against Gibraltar with the national team. De Jong joined FC Barcelona from Ajax during the 2019 summer transfer window and instantly became one of the most popular players. Alongside fellow Dutchmen Memphis Depay, he sells the most shirts. Frenkie had a difficult start in Spain, but quickly made himself an important part of the team and has barely missed any games since he signed.

Everything will be alright“, says De Jong, who remains very calm and optimistic about the club’s situation. “The results are bad, there’s no ignoring that. If you ask me if it’s driving me crazy, I’ll say yes when it comes to the results, but not because of everything that’s happening around that”, he told AD. “There’s a negative sentiment around the club, but that doesn’t really bother me.“

When asked about his performances being criticized, the midfielder answered: “I think it’s all a bit exaggerated at times. No, I’m not in the greatest form of my life, but I’m not playing bad either. I read the criticism on my game after the loss against Benfica. If you lose 3-0, you can never say it went very well, but the result doesn’t automatically mean I was terrible either. The criticism is often based on bad results.“

However, this doesn’t mean Frenkie isn’t asking a lot from himself: “I expect more from myself, that’s true. But Messi is the best player ever, he scored an insane amount of goals and also a ton of assists. I’m just not the type of player that scores 30 goals in a season, I don’t know any midfielder that does. I realise that I can do better in trying to carry the team and I should be doing better than zero goals and two assists. But I don’t think I’m a player whose season should be judged based on the number of goal contributions.“

De Jong was also asked whether he should try to go for his own luck more often: “The chance against Benfica when I passed to Luuk de Jong, I also could’ve shot myself. That’s what a striker would do. But the chance of a goal is simply bigger when you pass it around the keeper. If it happened again, I would do the same thing. If that ball goes in, nobody would say that I should’ve shot it myself. It’s true that later in the game, there was a cross which I tried to head back, but maybe I should’ve headed it at goal myself.“

He thinks the amount of injured attackers plays a big role in the lack of goals at Barça lately: “It would cause trouble at any club if you took away half of their attack. This break with the Dutch national team is pleasant, and maybe after that things could start going better at Barça. I really believe that, because we have a good squad, especially once the injured players return. We shouldn’t have wasted points in the games we did, but people also exaggerate a lot. We’ve only lost two more points than leaders Atlético and Real Madrid. We did have a terrible start in the Champions League, but there’s still a lot to play for. We have to win the next game against Dynamo Kyiv.“

“We just don’t have a lot of attackers available currently. That’s why we played with midfielders on the wings against Atlético. These wingers had to come inside, like Gavi did from the left and I did from the right. That way, you can create a man-more situation in midfield. Right-wing isn’t my best position, but it’s not like I had to stay out wide all the time. I had the freedom of coming inside. I think it was a one-time thing, the trainers also know that I’m better in midfield when I’m not the deepest playing midfielder. Sometimes there’s just no other option and you have to make a sacrifice for the team. I agree that I shouldn’t be played on the wing, I wasn’t expecting it either, but there were just no other options.“

“Whether I see Koeman suffering? There’s a lot of pressure, but anyone can see that. There seems to be news every day: Koeman’s time is up, this coach will replace him, that coach will replace him… I don’t know exactly what it does to him, you have to ask him that. I don’t know if we’ll be one of the best teams in Europe for the next few years. When you look at the names in our squad, we’re not in the top three or four in Europe, we would be lower. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reach that top group of teams.“

Frenkie also addressed the criticism he received in the Netherlands for protesting the referee’s decision’s all the time: “I don’t swear at them or anything. But maybe I should do it less often, although I doubt that will happen. I know it can be seen as annoying that I throw my hand up in the air, which I do a lot. But I do that because I’m thinking ‘ref, how could you do that?“

De Jong will represent his national team against Gibraltar for the World Cup qualifiers on Monday. Only two days later (on Wednesday), the Netherlands will face Montenegro, and three days after that (on Saturday), they will play Erling Haaland’s Norway in the decisive last game of the group. The Netherlands currently sit in first place, but are tied on points with Norway and only two points ahead of Turkey. After the international break, the midfielder will return to Barcelona, where he will look to beat Valencia on the 17th of October.