Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars is adamant that the club won’t sell starlet Frenkie de Jong to Spanish giants Barcelona. And right now, it seems that the player is remaining focused on the job in hand with the Sons of the Gods and not on a switch to the Nou Camp.
Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde is a long-term admirer of the prodigiously talented youngster and has made no secret of his desire to sign the gifted 21-year-old as part of his summer recruitment drive.
But in Overmars, who once played for the Catalan giants, Ajax have a figure who simply refuses to give in to pressure and his steadfast ways have even got De Jong redoubling his efforts to do his best for Ajax amid all of the speculation surrounding a potential move. Coach Erik ten Hag is, without question, delighted the player is staying, of course.
De Jong has Champions League qualification in his sights with Ajax and played his part in the first leg of their 2-0 qualifying round victory over SK Sturm Graz, of Austria, on Wednesday in the Amsterdam Arena. Goals from Hakim Ziyech, another target for a crop of suitors, and Lasse Schone secured the win. Ajax can seal the deal in the second leg on August 1.
For his part attacking midfielder De Jong, who played in 22 Eredivisie matches last term, sees this as his priority. He said:
“I noticed (the attention from Barca in the media) it. At the beginning it was nice, but now it doesn’t interest me.
“It’s fun to see yourself in Spanish newspapers but it doesn’t interest me now, I want to be 100 per cent focused on my team. Simply speaking I’m an Ajax player so I can’t say much about that the moment out of respect for them. Of course, there’s interest in me, everybody knows that. But as I said, I’m an Ajax player right now.”
The win over the Austrians was the first game back at the club for Daley Blind since he joined from Premier League big guns Manchester United in the summer after four seasons plying his trade at Old Trafford.
And after a rousing reception from the home fans on the night, he said:
“That certainly does me something. It was a real goose bump moment, it feels really good to get that appreciation and I’m happy with it. I thought we were playing well, putting the opponent under pressure and letting the ball go around properly, but we should not give away game perceptions too quickly.”
Blind says he is cautious about the second leg despite the two-goal margin and that he is nearing full fitness after his appearance as a sub in the match.
“It has not happened yet, but it is a good step. I’ve been in training for about a week and a half now, but I’m not 100 per cent yet, but that’s coming. I feel good.”