Barcelona completed one of the biggest transfers of the January window, securing the services of Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong in a deal worth €75 million (£65.3 million).
The highly-rated 21-year-old, who had also been on the radar of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, is staying with the Dutch giants until the end of the season before moving to the Camp Nou ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.
“With the arrival of Frenkie De Jong we add talent, youth and Barça style to our sporting project,” Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu told reporters. “We are convinced that he will be a key part of our team for years to come.”
Barça’s decision to allow De Jong to stay with Ajax until the summer meant fierce rivals Real Madrid would go head-to-head with the Netherlands international during the Champions League last-16.
However, the Barça new boy was unable to prevent Ajax slumping to a 2-1 defeat at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Karim Benzema opened the scoring on the hour-mark before Hakim Ziyech equalled 15 minutes later.
But Marco Asensio’s late winner leaves Madrid as firm favourites to advance to the quarter-finals.
De Jong played the full 90 minutes but was marked closely by Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric.
The Croatian midfielder isn’t a man used to carrying out a man-marking job but Santiago Solari clearly wanted one of his best players paying close attention to the Dutch youngster.
In turn, De Jong was handed the unenviable task of limiting Modric’s influence in central midfield.
So, how did De Jong fare under these circumstances?
Well, Catalan newspaper Sport have delivered their verdict on De Jong’s display and weren’t particularly impressed.
“It was an intense battle between the two of them - because De Jong had the job of stopping Modric too,” Sport’s German Bona wrote. “That was more surprising on the Modric front though, who operated as part of a double pivot from the start.
“The result was that they kept each other quiet. De Jong barely had the ball and when he escaped Modric he didn't feel comfortable. He lacked precision and on more than one occasion didn't find his desired team-mate with the ball.
“Only after Karim Benzema's goal could be more liberated. He moved up the pitch a bit more, to the left interior position where Modric did not follow, and he had more of the ball. Madrid were disjointed and Ajax equalised, before Asensio's late winner.
“It was not the best game from De Jong and he will not remember it fondly, especially as the referee didn't give a foul from Lucas Vazquez on him and it led to Madrid’s winner.”
A tough night for De Jong, then, who will be expected to hit the ground running when he arrives at the Camp Nou because of that huge transfer fee.
You can watch his highlights from the match here…
However, we’ve all seen what De Jong is capable of and the wonderful talent and potential he possesses.
Barça fans will be hoping he can have a bigger impact in the second leg at the Bernabeu on March 5.News Now - Sport News