Barcelona have spent most of the La Liga 2018/19 season sitting confidently and dominantly in first place, though, they are only one or two points ahead of the likes of Deportivo Alaves and Sevilla.
Enersto Valverde’s side beat Real Madrid on the weekend in quite some fashion, as the main man in Luis Suarez stepped up Lionel Messi’s absence and notched up a hat-trick as the Blaugrana beat Los Blancos 5-1 at home. The hosts were a couple of steps ahead of the visitors from the start of the match till the end, which also led Real Madrid’s hierarchy with no choice but to sack Julen Lopetegui.
However, the side still seem to be out of their depth and unconvincing when their key individuals are either injured or suspended. Due to this, Barcelona are not able to effectively flex their ability or strength around the pitch like they have been doing so over the last decade in Europe and in Spain.
With the main talks being on the lack of depth in defence and midfield, Barcelona are reportedly aiming for reinforcements in both areas during the January transfer window, with the latest reports stating that they are targeting a certain duo from AFC Ajax in Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs De Ligt.
According to the local and reliable reports in Spain, they believe that Enersto Valverde and the Barcelona board have been keeping tabs on both De Jong and De Ligt since the start of the season.
With no further ado, it’s time to look at the duo who play for the same club and country…
Frenkie De Jong
Regarded as one of the most impressive and talented central midfielders in Europe right now, Frenkie De Jong is proving himself as an individual that is calm, cool and collected no matter which position he plays in. He has revealed his ability and composure to be able to play as a defensive midfielder and even as a centre-back, showing that he is certainly ready to play at the highest level.
Thriving from his intelligent reading of the game and the types of passes he can produce, he has a huge influence on Ajax’s aesthetically pleasing style of play and is one of the many reasons to why the Netherlands international team are expected to return to the position where they belong.
Looking at his game as a whole, De Jong has successfully completed 430 out of the 467 passes he has attempted so far this season, clearly implying that his technical ability is top notch and he has the tranquility to pass with both feet. The youngster is always positive when he is in possession of the ball, especially when he has the rock solid confidence to pick out a short or long pass when needed.
Alongside his number of abilities, the only concerning weakness is that he is a vital individual towards the way his side plays and it does come with a risk of being caught out of a defensive position, unless a teammate can step into his role if necessary. However, game after game, De Jong’s experience and understanding of the game will allow him to be at the right place at the right time.
Having produced 16 interceptions and 13 tackles in eight league appearances, the Arkel-born central midfielder is certainly managing his way of influencing the game on and off the ball. The 21-year-old has also shown the ability to lead the line in his own way, making him a player that is potentially worthy of becoming a captain in the future, whether that is at Ajax or at another club in Europe.
The Eredivise side are not expected to sell the midfielder during the January transfer window, as a deal of sorts could cause some harmony issues within the dressing room whilst it would take the Dutch club a number of weeks to a month to find the perfect replacement for Frenkie De Jong.
Matthijs De Ligt
When looking at the defenders Barcelona’s squad, both Gerard Pique and Thomas Vermaelen are coming towards their final years of their footballing career whilst Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti are regarded as the two individuals the club can rely on in the long run. On the other hand, the La Liga giants would have a complete backline if they are able to bring in centre-back Matthijs De Ligt.
Pique and Umtiti are the regular starters at the heart of defence for Valverde’s men, however, the potential arrival of De Ligt would allow the team to be much more composed and dominant in possession of the ball. His burst of pace would also be helpful on both sides of the pitch, from being able to intercept or tackle as the last man defender to being utilised as a ball-playing centre-back.
The 19-year-old has already been linked with the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid and many other well-known European clubs, clearly showing that he has the potential to be one of the best players within his position one day. Though, it will be up to the player himself to personally decide for when he is ready to make the big move to one of the best clubs in Europe.
De Ligt’s breakthrough season at Ajax came during the 2016/17 campaign, where he was producing remarkable displays as well as becoming a key member for the club that went on to reaching the UEFA Europa League finals. He finished that season with an impressive figure of over 20 appearances in all competition, which was a total dream come true for someone who was only 17 at the time.
Since then, the rising youngster from Leiderdorp has become a popular person as he is regularly watched by a large number of European football supporters. Furthermore, his incredible intelligence mentally and tactically is simply one of a kind, something that cannot be easily said for majority of the defenders that play in Europe, making him a generational talent as a complete centre-back.
Given that Matthijs De Ligt has all the tools he needs in order to thrive in La Liga, a move from Ajax to Barcelona during the January transfer window should not be ruled out all. With President Josep Maria Bartomeu and the rest of the board looking to constantly be ahead of the other European clubs on and off the pitch, they could surely aim to make a statement signing in two months time.