Barcelona travelled to the Spanish capital of Madrid to lock horns against Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey Round of 16. A controversial first half followed a scare in the 60th minute when the hosts took the lead despite behind pegged behind throughout the course of the game.
A spectacular combination from Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi, coupled with the cherry on top of the cake that was Frenkie de Jong’s insane 10/10 performance helped Barça secure a comeback win and sail to the quarter-finals of their favourite competition. The only one where they look realistic contenders.
De Jong has been in incredible form in front of the goal as of late, scoring four goals, and giving two assists in seven games he has played in January. Ronald Koeman’s plan to use him as a box-to-box midfielder has worked wonders, and he has been rewarded for the same with a Player of the Month nomination for January by La Liga.
The 23-year-old explained this change in his game after the win against Rayo Vallecano, and what is the x-factor behind this run.
“I’m getting into the box a lot more and that’s why I can score more goals than before.”
Simple in theory, but works wonders for the team. It requires the intelligence for making perfectly times runs into the box when his teammates are in possession on the wing or in half-spaces. Even after that, he has to contest headers and through-balls against defenders in the box.
This version of de Jong is far from what everyone saw in the Eredivisie with Ajax, or with the Dutch National Team. Not only is he scoring, but he continues to put up marvellous displays in the centre of the park. The man behind his success, Ronald Koeman, could not agree more, saying that, “De Jong is playing in a more offensive position, and we need him. He is able to flood the box and score. The version we are seeing of de Jong’s is more complete than the one we saw at Ajax.”