Netherlands star Frenkie de Jong set to shine against France and Germany?
By Lewis Jones
Last Updated: 13/10/18 3:57pm
Netherlands star Frenkie de Jong has an important week ahead of him.
The Ajax midfielder has a chance to showcase his talents on the international stage in two home UEFA Nations League games against France and Germany, both live on Sky Sports.
De Jong is making a splash in Eredivisie and is being watched by some of Europe's elite clubs - so what is all the fuss about? We take a look...
- Age: 21
- Club: Ajax
- Birthday: May 12
- Nationality: Dutch
- Position: Centre-midfielder
- Height: 1.80m
- Ajax appearances: 50
- International caps: 2
Let's talk about Frenkie...
Some of the Ajax locals are falling head over heels for De Jong, although he did not actually progress through the famed Ajax academy - he was signed from Willem II in 2015 after making just one substitute appearance. He made a big impact out in Jong Ajax, the Amsterdam club's reserve side, before forcing himself into the senior side in 2016.
Strong in the tackle and supremely confident with the ball, De Jong is not afraid to dribble his way out of danger while his neat short passing has seen him compared to Sergio Busquets by Barcelona legend Xavi.
Predominantly played as a deep-lying midfielder, his natural talent and supreme football brain mean his versatility has been used by boss Erik ten Hag, who has played him as one of three centre-backs in a 3-4-3 and as one of two central defenders in a back four.
The purchase of Daley Blind from Manchester United over the summer has seen De Jong adopt a more consistent role in midfield this season. It's a position he wants to concentrate on.
"I don't want to remain in central defence throughout my career. I have always been a midfielder, and I remain a midfielder."
The Dutchman has now played 50 times for Ajax across all competitions, becoming a mainstay as they try and wrestle the Eredivisie title back from PSV and progress as far as possible in the Champions League.
His performances have triggered the attention of national team boss Ronald Koeman. The 21-year-old made his international debut when replacing Georginio Wijnaldum at half-time of Netherlands' friendly against Peru and completed all of his 21 passes in the opposition half, earning rave reviews as he also set up a goal.
He was handed his first start in the recent Nations League encounter with World Cup winners France - a game Koeman's side lost 2-1 but took many positives from, especially the mature performance of De Jong, who played 90 minutes up against Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante and looked at ease at the top level.
Barring no further problems from a slight calf injury which has seen him miss Ajax's last two games, De Jong is likely to retain his starting berth for the Netherlands on Saturday against Germany before a clash with France on Tuesday - both live on Sky Sports.
The world will be watching.
Who's he linked with?
Just a few clubs.
Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona and PSG all have been reportedly watching De Jong, with some signalling their interest by making a bid.
According to a report in June by Diario Sport, Barcelona were preparing a €50m (£45.5m) bid for the youngster after making him their top summer transfer target. The report made the front page of the daily Spanish sports newspaper.
It drew a response from Ajax technical director Marc Overmars, who insisted they will not let De Jong leave for "even an insane amount of money".
Manchester City have also reportedly been keeping tabs on his progress, with a report in the Daily Mirror in September claiming City had taken their interest one step further in the summer. A £50m offer was reportedly rejected by Ajax.
You can throw Tottenham into the mix too, according to the Daily Mail.
They ran a story in September that Daniel Levy tabled an opening offer of £45m for the player, which was also rejected by the Dutch giants. It is thought he is seen as a long-term replacement for Mousa Dembele, who is out of contract at the end of the season.
The key quotes
De Jong on transfer talk: "That interest is known by now, but I am still an Ajax player and I can't say much about it now.
"Certainly, you never know, but there is a big chance that I will stay at Ajax this season. I really want to play in the Champions League with Ajax."
Arie Haan: "De Jong is a better version of Franz Beckenbauer, because he has speed and passes the ball easily."
Xavi: "He looks like Sergio Busquets in terms of playing style. He's young, but I think he can make a huge contribution [to Barcelona] now. He is seen as a beastly talent. He's really a player to keep an eye on. De Jong's profile is exactly what Barcelona need. A player who is technically very strong, wants to work for the team, but above all has a lot of talent."
Ronald de Boer: "He brings so much peace and always shows the intention of going forward, which creates space for other players. Frenkie also has an outstanding pass. You can't learn that, it's just incredible quality."