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Frenkie de Jong, the NxGn whizkid continuing Ajax's youthful tradition

16:04 GMT+4 14/11/2018
Frenkie de Jong
Touted with moves to many of Europe's biggest and wealthiest clubs, the talented 21-year-old is in high demand but isn't desperate to leave Holland

Ajax's youth academy has been the envy of many clubs for decades. Many stellar names have passed through the revered system in Holland's capital, going on to make history with Ajax or a shedload of money for the club as they flock to the Europe's wealthier leagues.

Justin Kluivert, Davy Klaassen and Davinson Sanchez are just a few names who have left the Dutch giants for sizeable fees over the past 18 months, while a number of Erik ten Hag's current crop are being eyed by the so-called elite - none more so than Frenkie de Jong.

Likened to esteemed compatriot Frank Rijkaard, De Jong manages to combine defensive nous with the guile and passing range of a number 10, as evidenced by his performances this season - the 21-year-old is currently averaging 1.3 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per game, along with an average passing completion of 91%.

His displays have predictably garnered admirers from across the football world, including Barcleona legend Xavi. A move to the Blaugrana or indeed any of Europe's biggest and best is not high on De Jong's priority list - for the time being at least - but the lure of lining up alongside a certain diminuitive Argentine could prove too much to resist in the coming seasons.

“In the beginning it was fun and I felt very flattered by the stories around Barcelona, but after a while the questions about it got annoying," he told Elf Voetbal. “For the time being, I just stay with Ajax, at least another year and maybe two or three more years. I’m really enjoying myself here.

“If you end up in a club of a higher level, you will play with world-class players anyway. But I would really like to play with Messi someday. Of course I would like to play with him. He's already 31, so I have to hurry up.”

Barcelona aren't the only club said to be courting De Jong - both Manchester clubs are also keeping tabs on his progress as they plot their next moves in the transfer market - but Barca's charm offensive seems to have already begun, with former creator-in-chief Xavi leading the niceties.

“The Ajax playing style is a bit like the Barcelona playing style, we both come from the Dutch School, from Johan Cruyff. De Jong is still young, but he could contribute a lot to Barca, he is seen as a huge talent. He’s a player to think about, a very good footballer," Xavi told Mundo Deportivo.

“De Jong’s profile is exactly what Barcelona needs. A player who is technically very strong, wants to work for the team, but above all has a lot of talent. Barcelona always play in spaces of 30 to 40 meters when the opponent collapses and then you need talent to get through it.”

High praise indeed, but the pressure is now on De Jong to live up to the billing, be that at Barcelona, Ajax or elsewhere.