The Dutch midfielder said he learned daily from his famous teammate, Lionel Messi.
The Dutch international is in his first season at Camp Nou after joining the club from Ajax for a contract worth € 75 million last summer. He landed in Catalonia with the reputation of being one of the brightest young hopefuls in Europe. But his first months in Spain were not as glittery as hoped. The 23-year-old is still trying to adjust to his new life, in a new country, with new teammates and in a new position.
Midfielders at Ajax, De Jong were placed in a more eccentric role by Ernesto Valverde during his first weeks at Barça to enable Sergio Busquet’s return. The new manager Quique Setien, who replaced Valverde in January, then moved De Jong to a more offensive role. Dutch coach Ronald Koeman questioned Barcelona’s use of De Jong earlier this season, although the player himself says it is only part of a learning process.
“In Ajax and in the Dutch team I played a different role, but we play with a double six [deux milieux défensifs]” he told BBC Sport. “I have to adapt and it suits me, but I can improve myself. I’m at my best when I’m not the most defensive but also the least offensive [milieu de terrain]. “
The Dutchman also discussed his relationship with the team’s star, Lionel Messi. “If Lionel Messi talks and gives you advice, you take him because he is by far the best player in the world. If he gives advice you listen. Sometimes he says you have to be more advanced or on the side, this kind of little things and it makes a difference. “
De Jong also revealed how a visit from Barça President Josep Maria Bartomeu convinced him to join the club instead of Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Manchester City. “It was my dream to play for Barcelona”,he recalled. “It was my favorite club outside the Netherlands. When they came and showed that they were really interested, they made the choice easier. At first I didn’t feel Barcelona wanted me but they said I had a good chance to start and it was very easy for Bartomeu told me: “If you want to have fun, come to Barcelona. Sometimes when I am at the gym I look around and say to myself that it was always where I wanted to be when I was a kid. It’s a dream, I’m really happy. “