The Dutchman is set for a huge few months to determine his future
Frenkie de Jong made a huge effort to return from an injury to help Barcelona against Real Madrid but he was still a long way from his best in an important match. The Dutch midfielder did nothing to diminish the doubts that have followed him during his third season at Camp Nou. The former Ajax man is still not the differential player Barça paid €80 million for in 2019.
Despite Nico Gonzalez being in great form, Xavi put his faith in De Jong gain. He only played 45 minutes. He came off after a weak first half which ended with 26 interventions, 25 passes with an 88% success rate, three duels won and three balls lost. Beyond the numbers, his performance left a lot to be desired and did nothing to further his argument of more minutes.
Few players are facing such an important second half of the season for their future. In the coming months, De Jong is obliged to prove that he can be one of the leaders of Xavi's project. If he doesn't, there are two factors that could bring forward the end of his stay in the Ciudad Condal: the fierce competition in midfield and Barça's need to sell to buy a star ahead of next season.
Barça have problems in attack and defence but not in the middle. The development of Nico, Gavi and Pedri, coupled with Sergio Busquets' experience, create a good cocktail for the present and the future. With Riqui Puig, Sergi Roberto (currently injured) and Dani Alves (he pushed on against Linares) as other options, the reality is Frenkie must improve if he wants to stay.
President Joan Laporta's desire to sign a top striker in the summer could open the door for De Jong to leave. He's one of the highest valued players in the squad and, as his father recently reveals, has many admirers. "The five best clubs in Europe have called for him," he revealed a month ago. The end of the season will be key to see if he's capable of making the difference.