Frenkie de Jong given ovation by rival fans at Ipurua - after just 11 games for Barcelona
After just nine LaLiga games, De Jong was applauded by the home fans at a rival stadium. At Ipurua he showed he is developing an understanding with Messi.
For player on the visiting side to be given an ovation by rival fans is rare sight in football - and it's even rarer for a player who has only just arrived at a club to be applauded off the field by opposing supporters. On Saturday, Eibar fans treated Frenkie de Jong to a raturous ovation in acknowledgement of his performance in Barcelona's 0-3 win at Ipurua.
"It was a great feeling. I really appreciate it", a somewhat surprised De Jong said of the applause he received from rival fans. Maybe he was unaware of the exhibition performance he had just given - physically strong throughout the 90 minutes and excellent vision and reading of the match, De Jong was a nightmare for Eibar. He was the one at the controls when Barça swarmed forward, found spaces, played intelligent passes and most importantly, showed that he has an understanding with Messi.
De Jong, a guaranteed starter
The campaign is just two months old and De Jong's place in the starting XI is guaranteed. He has played in all of the official games the team has played - completing the full 90 minutos in seven of them). "He gives is a lot because he is such a powerful player. He never stops", Valverde admitted. In Ipurua, 90% of his passes successfully found their destination. And what's more, out of the 45 successful passes he dished out, 40% of them were aimed forward. That is exactly what Barça need in midfield - fewer balls played sideways and more directness. Barça also have been lacking a youthful approach and De Jong provides freshness and hunger. He's also taken no time to win over the fans - courteous and polite with the media and the fans, he has shown empathy from the moment he arrived. The only area he has yet to excel in so far is scoring goals. He's opened his account (against Valencia in Week 4), but should not feel hesistant to have a go from distance if he finds himself in a good position. When he doesn't shoot, he always elects the right option.
At Ajax, he had Lasse Schöne covering his back whenever he ventured forward but at Barça, he is obliged to keep his position if he plays in Busquets' holding role and to cover Messi's back when he roams out wide on the right. It's not by chance that he was voted the best midfielder of last season but it is impressive how quickly he has locked down his place at a club like Barcelona.
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