Pre-season is done and dusted, and now it’s time for all of the Spanish top flight clubs to get back down to business.
Barcelona kick-off the 2019/20 campaign with a visit to San Mames and a date with Athletic Club.
The Catalans come into their opening fixture full of confidence after a decent pre-season, albeit they’ve suffered an early blow or two with the injuries to captain Lionel Messi and reserve keeper, Neto.Their temporary absence is more than compensated by some excellent performances from the likes of new boys, Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong, however.
Watchers of La Liga knew exactly what to expect from the Frenchman, and he hasn’t disappointed.
He may have taken until the final pre-season game against Napoli to register his first goal for the Blaugrana, but Griezmann’s movement and inter-play has been first class.
Far from an unknown quantity, there were still questions that needed answering by De Jong. As excellent as he’d been for Ajax, could he fit in elsewhere, at a higher level, and still be decisive?
It’s something that the Dutchman has given an emphatic answer to!
In his first-ever game against Chelsea, De Jong left the field with a 100 percent passing accuracy stat.
Since then, he’s gone from strength to strength, to the point where it’s looked like he’s played in Barca’s midfield all his life.
Even his contemporaries, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the latter of whom saw him at close quarters when Barcelona played Vissel Kobe in their second pre-season game, have given their seal of approval.
Endorsements don’t come any higher than that.
An outside-of-the-boot assist for Ousmane Dembele in the final pre-season game of the season against Napoli, was exquisitely executed, and at 21 years of age, De Jong surely has the world at his extremely talented feet at this point.
He’s certainly left Ernesto Valverde with a headache on the eve of the new season.
Sergio Busquets has been a shoo-in for Barca’s midfield for a decade now, but De Jong has shown that the Catalans can now cope without him.
Could it be that a player who is universally admired will no longer be the first choice in the holding role now?
With Ivan Rakitic, Arthur Melo, Arturo Vidal and Sergi Roberto all vying for midfield starting berths too, there’s certainly depth in that area for Valverde now.
Perhaps too much depth!
On the evidence so far, it’s De Jong plus two or three more because in the form he’s in at the moment, Barcelona simply can’t afford to ease him in gently.