Ajax talent Frenkie de Jong is one of the most wanted players in Europe right now, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and maybe even one or two others believed to be on the 21-year-old’s tail.
Reports in Spain have even alleged that De Jong will decide his future in the coming weeks.
Here’s a look at seven things fans of elite clubs across Europe to know about him…
7. He’s a Full Netherlands International
De Jong first represented the Netherlands at Under-15 level in 2012 and progressed to the senior ranks earlier this year, making his debut in a June friendly against Peru.
Afterwards the player expressed his delight at being able to play for 15 minutes alongside veteran star and former Ajax hero Wesley Sneijder.
De Jong made his full competitive debut earlier this month when the Dutch team came up against reigning world champions France in the new UEFA Nations League, playing a full 90 minutes in the recent 2-1 defeat.
6. He’s Still Rather Inexperienced
Despite his call up to the Dutch national side and his vast reputation, De Jong remains incredibly inexperienced at senior level, with 2018/19 only his second season in Ajax’s first team.
The 21-year-old isn’t someone who has been playing regular first team games since the age of 17 or 18. In fact, his most recent appearance for Ajax against PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie was just his 50th senior game for the club after remaining a ‘Jong Ajax’ regular until May 2017.
5. He’s Already Played Against Man Utd
Big games outside a domestic setting have been few and far between in De Jong’s fledgling career so far, although he was at least able to face one of his current rumoured admirers shortly after breaking into the Ajax first team squad in 2017.
Having spent most of the season with Jong Ajax, De Jong was a late substitute in the 2017 Europa League final against Manchester United in Stockholm.
He had briefly appeared off the bench in earlier rounds against Legia Warsaw, Copenhagen and Schalke, before being given eight minutes in the final itself after replacing Jairo Riedewald. By the time the then 20-year-old made it onto the pitch, Ajax were already 2-0 down.
4. He’s Not an Ajax ‘Product’
It may surprise those who don’t closely follow Dutch football to learn that De Jong is not a product of the famed Ajax academy in the sense of someone like Wesley Sneijder or current teammate Daley Blind, who joined the youth ranks at the ages of seven and eight respectively.
Rather, De Jong was produced by Willem II and didn’t join Ajax until the much later age of 18, by which time he had already made his debut in the Eredivisie.
De Jong was briefly loaned to Willem II after signing for Ajax and was then pulled back from the first team to be further nurtured at reserve level until he was deemed ready.
3. He Could Spark a Bidding War
When rumours surfaced of Manchester United joining the race for his signature, De Jong was estimated to be worth around £50m (€56m) by the English media report sharing the news.
Yet a report from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf published just a few days later suggested that Real Madrid are willing to put forward a much larger sum of €80m (£72m) to secure the player.
While Ajax will not be keen to lose such a talented player, having multiple clubs trying to sign De Jong will be the best way to guarantee that they receive a premium price.
2. He’s Under Contract Until 2022
Another thing that will ensure Ajax are in for a huge pay day should they decide to let De Jong go is the contract situation that they find themselves in.
Ajax handed De Jong a new long-term contract as recently as December 2017 that will run until the summer of 2022. That gives the Dutch giants a strong position to command the biggest fee possible and they are under no obligation to sell for anything other than top dollar.
1. He’s ‘Better’ Than Beckenbauer
It is more or less impossible for talented footballers to develop without comparisons to former greats, and De Jong has been likened to more illustrious names than most in recent months.
Although a technically gifted midfielder by trade, De Jong has surprisingly been utilised as a ball-playing centre-back at time in his young career to date and one Dutch journalist has compared him to ex-Milan and Ajax star Frank Rijkaard.
That libero sweeper role could also warrant comparisons to Ronald Koeman. But 1974 Dutch World Cup legend Arie Haan suggested to a Dutch newspaper in December last year that De Jong is more like Franz Beckenbauer, and a ‘better version’ at that.
“I really think that kid is a revelation,” Haan told Algemeen Dagblad. “Now you might laugh: he is a better version of Franz Beckenbauer. And people have to interpret that properly. What I mean mainly: he also has speed and passes easily. A huge weapon.”