Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong could yet join Barcelona this summer as a European champion, the Amsterdam club in sight of the UEFA Champions League final as they prepare to take on Juventus in the quarter-finals.
The 21-year-old started his career at Willem II, moving to Ajax in 2015 at the age of 18. He spoke to UEFA.com about his journey to the Johan Cruijff ArenA and how it feels to be compared to the club’s most famous son.
On Ajax’s road to the quarter-finals …
It has been great for us so far. We played three preliminary [qualifying and play-off] rounds of course. We won them all, and that was also our goal. Then we got to the group stage, in which we showed what we are made of. We made it to the quarter-finals, and the highlight of it all was doing that by eliminating Real Madrid. We really showed everyone what we can do, and hopefully we can show that again against Juventus.
How do we feel? Really motivated, just like the other teams in the quarter-finals. We are of course the new kids on the block. But I think we showed everyone that we are playing at the same level as the other teams, and hopefully against Juventus we can show everyone that we are just as good as them or even better.
On his footballing upbringing …
Ajax stand for good football, well played out from the defence towards the goal, creativity, audacity. I had an excellent education at Willem II and enjoyed playing there. People there helped me to develop, and the same goes for Ajax. You are free to play and they correct you whenever necessary. But I think you should be able to show your creativity because that is one of the greatest qualities of Dutch football.
I have always given a lot for my football, but also missed out on a lot. But that was never difficult for me, because football is the best thing there is as far as I am concerned and I’ve enjoyed doing it since I was little. Football plays a really big role in my life because it makes me happy.
I always thought [Lionel] Messi was the best player. As a young player I was more of a No10 who played right behind the strikers. A bit lazy, with lots of possession. Now I am more of a holding player who does most work in the build-up phase.
On being compared to Johan Cruyff …
[People compared us] because we have a similar way of walking or running. It’s all a bit out of context. I don’t think they really compare me to how good he was or how good I can become, or what my influence is, because he is much greater than I am or ever will become. I would never want to compare myself to Cruyff.
My strongest points? It’s difficult to say, but I am someone who always wants to have the ball and who prefers to play with the ball at his feet.