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Should Barcelona extend Luuk de Jong’s loan?

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Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

On the deadline day of the 2021 summer transfer window, Ronald Koeman made the questionable acquisition of Luuk de Jong from Sevilla.

The Dutchman had been very unpopular with Sevillistas, this coming from the fact that he regularly underperformed in front of goal.

In his first few games as a Barcelona player, he received plenty of jeers from the fans, and understandably so. He could not score regularly for Sevilla and was seen as nothing more than an unwanted addition to a list of puzzling Barcelona signings.

Several months after this signing, opinions on him seem to have drastically changed. Once one of the most disliked players in the team, de Jong has gradually evolved into a sort of fan favourite.

Metamorphosis. (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

In response to this newfound love for him, a question needs to be asked about his continuity.

Should Barcelona extend de young stay at Barcelona, or should they part ways with him at the beginning of the next season? Join Barça Universal as we explore the prospect of de Jong’s continuity in the garnet and blue.

Barcelona can easily do better… 

When it comes to a purely qualitative comparison between Luuk de Jong and the rest of Barcelona’s current forwards, it seems clear that the garnet and blue can do better in the coming season. 

The Dutchman is simply not at the level necessary for Barcelona in what should be the completion of their recovery process as a club.

De Jong has arguably the most limited profile of any footballer in the Barcelona squad at the moment. Apart from his goals, which are few and far between, over a full 90 minutes, he scarcely offers enough to justify staying much longer.

Far from perfect. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

With regards to dynamism, de Jong is almost wholly lacking. He does not contribute enough on the ball and is a one-dimensional footballer.

One of the biggest reasons he does not play many minutes is that if you take away his goals, Barça do not receive much else from him.

His form in front of the goal is oftentimes despicable. The Dutchman is an irregular fixture in the final third, and with reason. 

The Dutchman’s worst game in a Barça shirt has been the goalless draw against Benfica in the Champions League. He made just eight passes in an hour of play, had fifteen touches of the ball, and a single shot on goal for the garnet and blue.

De Jong has performed poorly in front of goal in most of his games as a starter, resulting in him being relegated to no more than a substitute. 

Granted, he has been influential in his cameo roles, but his remaining as a bench player is not the most ideal of scenarios for the Catalan giants.

This prompted a fiery response from Barcelona legend Luis Suarez Miramontes, who bluntly asked, “who the h*ll recommended him.”

The reaction was nimbly understood, as that woeful performance deprived Barcelona of a much-coveted spot in the Champions League knockout stages. 

This is a problem that can nimbly be solved by making an acquisition in the transfer market this summer. 

Barcelona have been linked with Robert Lewandowski over the course of the last few weeks. If he is to arrive at the Catalan capital, it will be to offer a world-class presence in the garnet and blue for the coming season.

No room for debate with this man. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

In improving the quality of Barcelona’s first-choice striker next season, there will also be a ripple effect on the bench. This comes through the amelioration of the second choice striker for the coming campaign. 

The Catalans would move from depending on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for goals as a starter to having him offer a dynamic presence in the team coming from the bench in the coming campaign.

He would be perhaps the best substitute striker that Barcelona can ask for and to a significant degree an improvement on de Jong. 

For their own good in the coming season, Barcelona can and should seek better than the Dutchman in the coming season. Keeping him in the Camp Nou will result in a collective stagnation of the team, something the Catalans simply cannot afford.

…But is it necessary?

Luuk de Jong was the least likely footballer to make a move to FC Barcelona. He had performed quite poorly for Sevilla in the seasons prior to his move to the Catalan capital.

Expecting him to suddenly perform for the garnet and blue was a pipe dream, but one which surprisingly came true. But on his first game donning Barcelona’s iconic strip, de Jong was met with tens of thousands of jeers coming from cules.

Nothing is as certain as the unexpected. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

His reputation, owing to his far from ideal individual quality playing for a club as grand as Barça, led to many supporters naturally disliking him. Suffice to say that things have changed since.

De Jong has changed many narratives in his time here. As the ultimate opportunist, he took advantage of the absence of Memphis Depay to make a name for himself. He has also maximised on his few appearances as a substitute to give himself a role in the team.

The numbers speak for themselves. In his last seven games for the Blaugrana before the unfortunate loss against Cadiz, he has hit the back of the net five times, winning his team eleven of the seventeen points in that period.

This is possibly the most decisive he has ever been in Spain, and Barça can’t be more thankful. Undoubtedly, this is also because, under Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona have been more direct in their approach to matches.

Rather than spending loads of time circulating the ball in pursuit of the picture-perfect play in every attack, at times, he opts to seek quicker, less traditional measures to get to the goal.

One such method has been to play crosses into the penalty area, and in the current Barça squad, not one individual is as lethal as the Dutchman at the end of a cross. In fact, in the 21st century, only Cristiano Ronaldo has more headed goals in Europe.

Barcelona’s biggest aerial weapon by some distance. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

As much as Luuk de Jong, individually, does not possess the highest level of quality, he adds dynamism to the team. Thanks to him, the technical, crossing expertise of Ousmane Dembele and Adama Traore can be maximised.

Furthermore, Luuk accepts his current bench role as is, something that most players would not be content with. He said himself a few months back: “And yes, even if I were to become a substitute again, I could still be valuable,” 

There is no guarantee of someone like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being as open to the same treatment next term. In fact, since that quote, on the 22nd of January, the Barça number 17 has scored three goals for Barça in just 14 minutes of play across four matches as a substitute. 

A lot can be said about his technical proficiency, but few can be as impactful as the Dutchman, and even fewer can accept just 14 minutes of football in almost 100 days. De Jong is a special player, not by virtue of his individual quality, but his passion and drive.

His humility is one of his most admirable qualities, as he knows that he should not show entitlement for a spot (unlike a certain Miralem Pjanic last season), and instead prefers to prove himself.

De Jong is also ready to play under lower wages than most players. Aubameyang earns about €126,500 a week on his current contract, a rate which could easily increase next season when Barcelona’s state will be better than it is now.

Loftier demands. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

The Dutchman, meanwhile, earns €102,000 a year. However, given the fact that this is evenly split between Barcelona and Sevilla, it means that the Catalans will only have to pay €51,000 annually, which, for a substitute, is more than ideal for Barça given their miserable financial situation. 

In this case, how much more could Barcelona ask for in a player? He demands relatively low wages, offers a quite significant impact as a substitute, and in addition to being lethal as a sub, he does not ask for many minutes. 

Conclusion

Barcelona’s best bet could be to rely on Luuk de Jong for the next year. As it stands there is no certainty that they will acquire a star striker next season. Until then, the Dutchman’s future should be closer to, rather than farther from, the Camp Nou.

If indeed Barcelona get their hands on Lewandowski or Mohammed Salah, then his future can come to question. Until this happens, and the pair remain tied to their respective Reds, Barcelona would be better off keeping their Oranje near them.

In a worst-case scenario, Barcelona will struggle to use him and cancel the loan in December. Conversely, he could offer many more clutch performances from the bench to a fanbase that seemingly cannot have enough of him at the moment.

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