The bidding war is finally over and Barcelona have emerged as the ultimate winners over PSG. If the relations between the two European giants were bad before, now they are definitely at an all-time low.
While this transfer market rivalry goes way back to other failed transactions, it all started with Marco Verratti, and has reached its climax with Neymar Junior leaving Catalunya for the City of Lights and the Park of Princes. And money, most probably. Or so we have been led to believe.
Nonetheless, just as the saga was maybe calming down we found out that it truly was a calm before the storm as yet another battle emerged, and this time, Ajax was found in the midst of it all. Or to be more precise, Frenkie de Jong was the main protagonist with multiple checks being presented to the youngster in the exchange for his long-term services.
Ideology and tradition prevailed in the end as the young Dutch pearl put his signature on the Catalan contract and raised the Red and Blue jersey up in the air for the first of what we would assume to be many, many times.
Some call it a victory for football, some a win of the greatness of the beautiful game over money, and a clear sign of hope. But what will Frenkie de Jong’s arrival at the Camp Nou mean for Blaugrana and their squad? Have they by sealing the Dutchman’s fate also, intentionally or not, sealed that of some other names under their roof?
Let’s try and find out.
Isn’t it beautiful when a player joins the club of his dreams and gets to play with his idols that he adored ever since he was a kid? Definitely, but one man’s success often means the other’s demise. In this particular instance, this could not be more true.
Frenkie de Jong was convinced that Barcelona would be his ideal destination, even if it wasn’t the most profitable one. Of course, the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City could surely topple Barca’s offers and blow them out of the water but there’s much more to football than money. Well, to some players, at least.
Frenkie is, as it seems, one of those specific players who needed a different guarantee, a different deal breaker, if you will. No, for him it definitely wasn’t about the money. He would get that over time but what he wanted was a big promise – a promise that he would reach the gala XI, and not go down the bench-warmer path that so many of Barcelona’s recent purchases have gone to.
This is a privilege earned and not given but Frenkie wanted to make sure there would be a spot free if he impressed his superiors over time. In a more loose translation, he wanted a less crowded midfield where he would get more chances to shine. Barcelona eventually said yes, and the expendables list just got a whole lot bigger.
The process of rejuvenation at Barcelona has already begun but none of the big names have yet felt its cold grasp. As it stands, the first in line are the midfielders, all of which was now set in motion by Frenkie de Jong. Not to mention the overload the wage bills are still experiencing since the arrival of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele.
Since Frenkie is an extremely versatile player, it makes no difference who goes, as long as they leave a free spot open for the Dutchman. Everybody’s guess is Barcelona only active Croat, Ivan Rakitić, who is despite all the love from Valverde, the first name that comes to mind when talking about sales.
Ever since he arrived from Seville, Ivan was almost always an indispensable piece of the Blaugrana puzzle, thriving under both coaches, and asserting himself profoundly. Still, not everyone sees him as a suitable Barca player but that is a question for another time.
With 30 years already on his back, big wages but also quite a big price tag on his head, Rakitić is the ideal offloading point for the Catalans. A way to make money, free some room in the squad, rejuvenate and keep both the fans and the players happy. Well, most of them, at least.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to find suitable offers for the Croat as he is still one of the best at what he does, which is a bit of everything. Not a profile that is easily found but one that can be sacrificed “for the greater good”.
Next in line is likely to be Arturo Vidal. Someone will have to go, and even though the Chilean warrior was just recently signed, a repeat of the Paulinho situation would not be that much of a surprise, all things considered.
Well stepping into the 30s, Vidal might find it difficult to push through the ranks once more as more emerging young talent knock on the door. His occasional cameos turned to prolonged spells of first team playtime when the chance presented itself with injuries and rotations this season, but fighting with Sergio Busquets, Arthur Melo, Frenkie de Jong and Carles Alena might prove to be too much.
Would the club keep him as an experienced veteran on the bench? Maybe but wouldn’t in that case Rakitić edge Vidal out as well? Or is Ivan already seen as a chance to make more profit, which the club desperately needs? It remains to be seen.
Another possible casualty is the most remarkable one of the whole bunch: Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian is, to this day, the most expensive buy in Barcelona’s history. Although he started brilliantly, showed his talent, his skill and everything the board saw in him, he soon fell off, and what a downfall that was.
Whether it was the position change, the injury or simply a confidence thing it still remains to be fully answered but Coutinho seems to be out of place in the squad, and more alarmingly, out of time.
With Frenkie’s arrival, a spot in midfield seems as unlikely as ever before, and the sudden and fiery rise of Ousmane Dembele means that the gates to the starting spot in the front three is also pretty much closed. So where does he go from here?
I’d say he either steps up, outperforms the young Frenchman or makes a full transition from a mediapunta to an interior player or else… If the price is right and expenses could more or less be covered, Barcelona may not care much for a humble boy’s dreams that came true but could also very well burn down pretty soon. Such is the cruelty of modern sport.
Maybe, just maybe if Coutinho can last long enough for Messi to drop completely to midfield or even to the bench in the future, there could be a place for him in the Argentine’s role. This, however, can only be made possible during heavy rotational games in the present, which means that Phil will still have to expand his arsenal if he wishes to survive in Catalunya.
Finally we have the likes of Rafinha, Denis Suarez, and Malcom, who are quite versatile and to an extent adaptable but have low chances to stay, with or without Frenkie de Jong. The first two prefer midfield roles, which means that their fates have truly been sealed and there’s no coming back. The competition is just too big, especially with the Dutchman now here, and their departures are only a matter of time…
Missing out on such a generational talent as Frenkie de Jong would be borderline sinful but what happens when “foreign talent” gets in the way of La Masia? Many fear that this might truly be the case as the likes of Riqui Puig and Oriol Busquets are fighting extremely hard to get a chance with the first team.
Carles Alena could be the proof that hardwork does pay but he might also be a proof that it takes a lot of it, and a lot of time to accomplish such feats. With so much talent in one midfield of (mostly) three players, Barca B players are suddenly going to have to play with the difficulty being raised one level up than usual.
Personally, I wouldn’t be so worried about Puig, especially. Although it’s still far too early to tell, something about that kid simply feels – special. Just by watching him play you get that feeling that he will succeed no matter what happens and whoever arrives at the club. Even if it’s Frenkie de Jong of all people.
In a way, Frenkie will affect their potential game time but they are long-term options, just as he is. Their future should not be in jeopardy. On the contrary, the very thought of all of them playing, training and enjoying themselves together brings a smile to every Cule’s face. As it should be.
Frenkie de Jong has brought joy to Catalunya once more. It has to be said that the transfer policy is somewhat recovering and once again heading in the right direction. Sure, the fees are bigger than ever, the wages are skyrocketing and bargain deals are close to being a thing of the past but it’s a transition everyone feels at the moment, and it’s rough for most clubs.
De Jong’s arrival will, however, cause a series of events to unfold sooner rather than later. The process has already begun, and it will enter its final stages when the summer transfer market opens. In with the new (young), and out with the old is the order of business at the Camp Nou.
It seems a new era is dawning in Barcelona, and once more it looks like it’s going to be a sight to behold. Let’s hope that to be true.