De Jong swayed by Barca’s ‘key player’ promise

BARCELONA (AFP) – Rising Dutch star Frenkie de Jong said that Barcelona’s promise to make him a “key player” convinced him to sign for the Catalan giants earlier this year, as he was presented at the Camp Nou on Friday.

The 22-year-old midfielder impressed as Ajax won the Eredivisie title and reached the Champions League semi-finals last season.

Barcelona announced the signing of De Jong in January for EUR75 million on a five-year deal which started on July 1.

“Of course I was thinking about other clubs which were interested, but it’s a normal process,” he said.

“I considered my options, which was best for me, Barcelona came to see me, they convinced me.

“The decision was easy for me. They said they had every confidence in me, that they thought I would be a key player for Barca in the future.”

De Jong thinks that playing with the best players in the world, like five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, will help him improve.

“Of course, he (Messi) is the best,” he said. “I’m very happy to play with him and I’m also looking forward to playing with the whole team.

“All the players here are really talented, not just Messi.”

He joins a long list of Dutch players to sign for Barcelona, initiated by Johan Cruyff’s moves there, also from Ajax, as a player in 1973, and as a coach in 1988.

“The Netherlands and Barcelona have always had a connection,” De Jong added.

“It’s about playing in a similar way with the philosophy of Ajax and of Barca, which for me is obviously great.”

De Jong was a mainstay of the Ajax side last term, scoring three goals in 52 appearances, while also breaking into Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands team and winning nine international caps.