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Pedri or Frenkie de Jong: Who should be Barcelona’s sacrificial lamb in the summer transfer window

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Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona’s fluctuating financial circumstances have ensnared the club in a precarious predicament.

Due to their fickle economic state, the Catalan giants are intent on returning to the 1:1 rule, which will allow the team to comply with La Liga’s strict financial fair play regulations and have some leeway in the transfer market.

But for that goal to become a reality, Barcelona will be obligated to oversee at least one or two significant sales.

And two big names who could attract significant sums are none other than the midfield maestros, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri Gonzalez.

Highly skilled players but also immensely lucrative assets, one of them may end up having to take the fall for Barcelona’s monetary mess.

With the club also possessing ample talent in the midfield department, it is an area where they could make do with some cuts, which gives rise to the question: out of Pedri and Frenkie, who should Barça cash out on if push comes to shove?

Talented but dispensable

Frenkie de Jong stands out as one of Barcelona’s premier talents, and his ascent has been particularly impressive since the arrival of Xavi.

After being used as a stopgap in unfavored zones and nearly being sold by the club in 2022, Xavi’s decision to let Frenkie fly in a double pivot ignited an incredible resurgence from the former Ajax man.

In a double pivot role next to a holding midfielder, the 26-year-old is able to control games while simultaneously progressing plays via both carrying and passing.

He is one of the best ball-carrying midfielders around, and his distribution from deep is one of a kind. With accommodating profiles, the Dutchman is cut above.

However, as talented as he is, certain aspects of his gameplay make him a dispensable asset.

Is it time for de Jong to go? (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

For starters, Frenkie’s defensive awareness is one of his weakest traits and a flaw that has hurt Barcelona considerably over the years.

While those aspects can be disguised with reliable ball winners by his side, a player of his stature is expected to be more alert, particularly considering how much Barcelona suffers in transition.

But the biggest reason why Barcelona can afford Frenkie’s sale is because his role is comfortably reproducible by others in the squad.

In fact, Pablo Gavi already showed immense aptitude in the double pivot role earlier this season before he got injured.

His development as the first receiver, ability to safely circulate the ball, and press resistance mirror Frenkie’s specialization on the ball.

And without possession, Gavi is simply in a league of his own. With an incredible work rate, the La Masia graduate has proven to be a relentless ball winner, an aspect Frenkie lags in significantly.

Against Real Madrid last year, Gavi formed a double pivot alongside Ilkay Gundogan and showed the world his innate proficiency in the role, despite not having a natural defensive midfielder to play off of, which Frenkie desperately requires to be at his best.

One may argue that de Jong’s excellence on the ball overshadows the fact that he does not have the defensive abilities to play deep.

Even so, the likes of Pedri and Ilkay Gundogan are more than capable of taking over the team’s creative burden. Aside from the Ducthman’s progressive ball-carrying, there is not much that he offers that Barcelona does not already have.

As such, if the Catalans invest in a quality defensive midfielder and get Gavi’s old version back (hoping his ACL does not affect him severely), Frenkie’s place in the squad will essentially be discarded.

And retaining a player who earns over €30 million a year as a backup option is not a realistic scenario.

It is clear that Frenkie has no shortage of suitors, and recently, Tottenham Hotspur even sent a €60 million bid for the player, even though the amount was not considered up to par.

Why Pedri Gonzalez is Barcelona’s linchpin

Having unpacked Frenkie de Jong’s situation and coming to the conclusion that his responsibilities are replicable, it is important to note why Pedri is simply more essential to the squad.

Indeed, at the age of 21, Pedri is already the beating heart of Xavi’s system. The Spanish sensation strikes the ideal balance between prolonged control and directness, patiently rising opponents with pausa and bursting to life when needed.

His ability to thread through balls from the unlikeliest of scenarios renders him the most creative player in the squad, as he possesses an ability to generate openings out of thin air.

From providing the penultimate pass to breaking lines against a mid-block, he can always be relied upon to slice defenses open.

However, in addition to being such a creative force, Pedri’s importance is observed most when Barcelona descends into chaos.

During this modern era of faster, more physical football, where stopping for a couple of seconds means having a defender breathing on your neck, playmakers are often forced to pass vertically without much time to ponder.

Indispensable. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

In such a context, Pedri’s genius to pause amidst this chaos and ensure that he makes the optimal choice allows Barcelona to have a firmer grip on the game.

His diverse skillset allows him to play any role in midfield, which cannot be said for Frenkie de Jong.

Pedri is well-equipped to play as a controller in deeper areas of the pitch, while he can slot in as an advanced interior to cause damage in the final third.

He is perfectly capable of playing the final killer pass upfield, making late runs inside the opposition box, and scoring from range.

But the Spanish international is equally influential when asked to conduct plays from deep, play switches across the field, and be in charge of managing the team’s tempo.

As much as his injury woes persist, when fit and available, there is no match for what Pedri brings to the table.

Furthermore, a prior report deemed Pedri one of four ‘untouchable’ players next summer, along with Gavi, Ronald Araujo, and Lamine Yamal.

Final thoughts

Barcelona’s finances have put them in a tight spot. Even though European powerhouses are expected to form teams boasting incredible depth, the Catalans’ economic state means they do not have that luxury anymore.

With Frenkie de Jong’s present deal expiring in 2026, the midfielder is the most costly player for the team when factoring in both his pay and any additional funds postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As such, Barça will simply need to bite the bullet, especially if foreign teams offer funds that could be allocated elsewhere, such as the defensive midfield position or left wing, which are far more pressing areas to deal with.

According to recent reports, Barcelona would be willing to sell De Jong for a high price if he decides not to renew on low salary terms—the Blaugranes would reportedly ask for at least €100 million.

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