The Dutchman says a former Netherlands manager advised him on a possible move to Camp Nou before becoming his boss in Catalonia a year later
Frenkie de Jong has revealed the advice he was given by Ronald Koeman prior to his move to Barcelona.
Barca reached an agreement to sign De Jong from Ajax for €75 million (£68m/$89m) in January 2019, having seen him emerge as one of the brightest talents in Europe at Johan Cruyff ArenA.
The 23-year-old joined up with his new team-mates at Camp Nou six months later, and has since become a regular in the Blaugrana starting XI.
The Dutch midfielder has now admitted that he sought Koeman’s opinion after lining up a transfer to Barca, having already established himself in the 57-year-old’s set up at international level with the Netherlands.
“I spoke to him [on the phone over a year ago] and he was really positive about Barcelona as a club as well as Barcelona as a city. So what he told me was almost all positive,” De Jong told UEFA.com.
“He just told me I have to be careful, that I [shouldn’t] go to restaurants too much or eat too much because life is really good in Barcelona and sometimes you can feel like you’re on vacation the whole year.
“He just said, ‘Be careful with that and, for the rest, everything is really good.’ At the end of the day, football is the main part.”
Koeman, who won four league titles and the European Cup at Barca during his playing career, inherited the managerial reigns at Camp Nou a year later, replacing Quique Setien in the hot seat following the team’s 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
De Jong is pleased to have linked up with the experienced coach again at club level, and says he enjoys a good relationship with the Blaugrana legend which is based on respect.
“I think the communication between us, between the coach and me, is really good, and he tells [me] strictly what he demands from me in this position, and I think everything is really clear,” he said of Koeman’s managerial style.
“When he’s talking, you are listening to him because he has this authority, this power – I don’t know how to explain it – and, of course, he has a lot of knowledge about football because I think he understands the game and was a great player before.
“So, if he tries to teach you something, you’re listening.”
De Jong has taken up several different positions in the starting XI since his arrival at Barca, but he is pleased to be back in his natural role in holding midfield under Koeman’s stewardship.
“I think in my nature as a player, I want to receive the ball early in the play and to set up the play. I think that’s more my style of play than waiting for the ball and receiving it up front, and touching the ball less,” he said.
“I think I feel more comfortable in the pivot position than high up front, but I can also play high up front. It doesn’t matter for me so much but, if I had to choose, I would rather play as a double pivot than, for example, as a mediapunta (false nine).”
De Jong will be back in action with Barca when they take in a trip to Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday, where they will be aiming to bounce back from a painful 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in El Clasico at the weekend.