The talented Netherlands international admits that the Blaugrana have under-performed over recent seasons and reflected on Lionel Messis exit
Frenkie de Jong admits he had expected to win more trophies at Barcelona since his big-money move from Ajax three years ago.
The Netherlands international has just one Copa del Rey title to his name since linking up with the Barca squad in the summer of 2019, a turbulent period which has seen the club battle significant financial issues, sell a number of key players and change manager three times.
Despite that frustration, De Jong insists he is happy at Camp Nou and says a message from fellow midfielder Sergio Busquets helped him settle in at his new club.
De Jong joined Barca for an initial fee of €75 million (£65m/$85m) in January 2019, but only linked up with the squad that summer ahead of the 2019-20 season.
The Catalans went on to finish second in La Liga behind Real Madrid and failed to win a trophy for the first time since 2008.
They managed to lift the Copa de Rey the following campaign but could only finish third in La Liga, the first time Barca have finished outside the top two in 13 years.
Despite that frustration De Jong says he has no regrets about making the move to the Catalan giants.
“I’m very happy I’m at Barcelona: from a young age I’ve wanted to be here, so in that way it has been a dream come true,” he told The Observer.
“But, of course, I would have liked to win more trophies than we did in my first two years. I expected more in that sense, let’s put it that way. But other than that, I’m very happy here and hopefully for many more years.”
A graduate of the famed Ajax academy and part of the senior side that reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2019, there was much excitement surrounding De Jong’s arrival.
Once his move was confirmed the Spanish media quickly began speculating about his role in the side, suggesting Sergio Busquets could lose his place and even grow resentful about the Dutchman’s presence.
De Jong, however, insists he enjoys a good relationship with the veteran Spain international, who went out of his way to welcome him to the club.
“He was like [in a text message]: ‘Great you’re coming and if you need something I’m always there to help,’” De Jong said.
“And when I arrived in Barcelona, he recommended a restaurant and made a reservation for me and my girlfriend, Mikky. He had also informed the owner that we were coming, so that everything was well arranged for us.”
One of the key reasons why Barca have struggled for silverware in recent seasons is their financial issues, which have restricted their spending in the transfer market and forced them to offload players to reduce the wage bill.
The most high-profile player to leave was, of course, Lionel Messi, who departed on a free transfer last summer as the club could not afford to sign him up to a new contract.
De Jong admits he was shocked when news of Messi’s departure broke and says the squad has had to adapt in the absence of the Argentine superstar.
“First of all I thought it wasn’t true,” he said. “I was collecting my dad and brother from the airport. Then I got a message: ‘Messi is leaving Barcelona.’
“A bit later we got indications it was really happening. At first you just can’t believe it, even though there were rumours throughout the summer. But I never took it into serious consideration, so when it happened it was a shock.
“He was the face of the club, so when he left – after everything he has done for the club – it was a heavy blow for everyone. We still miss him. If someone like him is not at the club any more, then things are suddenly very different.
“If you have such a player in your team, you just try to find him as much as possible on the pitch – so the game is adjusted to him, which is logical. So when he leaves you have to adjust to it as a player and team.
“I think he is the best in pretty much all aspects of football. Whether we did finishing drills, positioning plays or other training games: he was the best. No praise about him is exaggerated. For me he is the best ever.”