BARCELONA (AFP) – Barcelona have won the race to sign highly-rated Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, the Spanish club announced on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old will join Barca on July 1 for 75 million euros, with a further 11 million euros due to Ajax in additional payments.
De Jong, who is considered one of the most exciting young players in Europe, will begin a five-year contract with his new club.
“Barcelona and Ajax have reached an agreement for the transfer of midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who will be joining the Catalan club from July 1, 2019,” a Barcelona statement read.
“The cost of the transfer is 75 million euros, plus a further 11 million in variables. The player will be signing a contract for the next five seasons, through to 2023/24.”
De Jong had attracted interest from a host of European clubs, with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City reportedly among those keen.
But Barcelona’s history for developing young talent appears to have proven decisive.
The iconic treble-winning team under Pep Guardiola now has few of its stars left, as the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Carlos Puyol and Victor Valdes have all moved on.
Barca, however, are building an impressive new crop. De Jong will join fellow 21-year-olds Ousmane Dembele and Carles Alena at the Camp Nou, along with the 22-year-old Arthur Melo.
Big things are also expected of Oriol Busquets, Riqui Puig and Juan Miranda.
“With the arrival of Frenkie de Jong we add talent, youth and a player with Barca style to our project,” Club President Josep Maria Bartomeu said.
“We are convinced that he will be a key piece of our team for the next few years.”
De Jong is also another statement acquisition for the club, who have now splashed out more than 300 million euros on Philippe Coutinho, Dembele and De Jong alone in the last 18 months.
It would have been more than 400 million euros had Antoine Griezmann decided to leave Atletico Madrid last summer.
There have been pragmatic buys too, even this month. De Jong is Barcelona’s third signing of the January transfer window, following the arrivals of Jeison Murillo and Kevin-Prince Boateng on loan from Valencia and Sassuolo respectively.
Boateng turns 32 in March but will provide back-up for Luis Suarez until the end of the season. Murillo covers Samuel Umtiti, who is struggling with a knee injury.
But De Jong is a long-term signing, who chimes with Barcelona’s identity and will be expected to play a lead role in their future.
After coming through the ranks at Willem II in the Netherlands, he signed for Ajax in 2015 and has been a first-team regular for the past two seasons.
In a video message to fans, De Jong said, “I will join Barca in the summer. I am excited, proud and happy.”
“He’s a great player, who certainly has a great future,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.
De Jong will also follow a prestigious line of Dutch players to represent Barcelona, which includes Johan Cruyff, Ronald Koeman, Patrick Kluivert and Frank de Boer.