Good vibes are back in Barcelona going into the World Cup.
After a deflating October highlighted by a lifeless loss to Real Madrid, the Catalans have turned things around and find themselves in first place going into the break.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a season in which early setbacks have raised questions about the great comeback many expected under Xavi.
Bad luck seemed to strike again when Barcelona were paired with Manchester United in the Europa League draw.
But then again, for a team with something to prove, maybe this is exactly what Xavi and his men needed.
None more so than Frenkie de Jong, who will have a chance to lead Barcelona against a high-profile opponent who has been keen to steal him away.
Let’s level set for a moment.
What was really going on behind the scenes last summer with Frenkie?
Did Xavi really see the Dutchman as disposable?
Whether it was for sporting reasons, or simply out of desperation to lower the wage bill, the manager and the president got this assessment wrong.
Frenkie deserves respect for staying calm and drama free, walking the walk, and showing his team and the rest of the world his value.
During the preseason, he was used exclusively as a center-back, presumably to pressure him into considering the offer from Manchester United.
On matchday one, as Barcelona dropped points after struggling to break down Rayo Vallecano, Frenkie started on the bench.
Eventually, Xavi came around and has used Frenkie regularly, and in a variety of positions.
Against Osasuna, Frenkie dropped to the backline in the dying minutes, and delivered a sensational ball over the top to Raphinha, to secure a vital come from behind victory.
This is what he does. Regardless of the position you play him in, Frenkie breaks lines, and makes the team more dynamic.
A year ago, when Barcelona experienced an injury crisis with their forwards, he made himself into a pseudo striker and found ways to break into the box to score goals.
As a box to box, he is the one midfielder you can count on to carry the ball forward through the midfield, disorienting defenders along the way.
Although Xavi still can’t move past Sergio Busquets, Frenkie has shown, when given the chance, he can play as a pivot in his own unique way, and offer something different.
Tuesday was another reminder that he is also a capable central defender. It’s surprising that with all the injuries, Xavi hasn’t used this option more often, especially considering how much he experimented with it over the summer.
Frenkie de Jong is a complete footballer.
His talent, intelligence, and versatility, make him a one of a kind asset.
With the Dutch national team, we’ll probably see another version of him, in a very different system, but nonetheless a leader who will carry them deep into the tournament.
Going into the winter transfer window, hopefully Xavi and company drop any consideration of selling Frenkie, and build around him instead.
With all the current captains likely to be gone by the end of the season, Frenkie should be next up to wear the armband, because he is an example of what this great club is all about. He takes on any challenge on any given day, plays beautiful football, and finds a way to help the team win.
Barcelona are lucky to have him, and should appreciate his dedication in spite of the rocky years he’s played through.
If they are to win the league title this year, Xavi needs to do a better job with his player selection, especially in the most consequential games.
From what we’ve seen so far, playing Frenkie as the regular defensive midfielder is important for short-term success, but also to decide whether it’s a long-term solution, or if new investment is needed there.
If Xavi has other ideas, so be it, so long as Frenkie is on the field.
Barcelona is simply not the same team without him, and they will need to hit the ground running when the season resumes. They should take nothing for granted, and be clear-eyed about which players make them the most competitive.
Every point counts, and thanks to Frenkie, Barcelona are on top, and that’s where they need to stay.
Time to give him the respect he deserves.