The rumours that Frenkie de Jong is being courted by other top European teams just won’t go away.
A ballpark figure of €70m has been mooted as a potential transfer fee, and whilst that would represent a small loss for the Blaugranes, it wouldn’t be a bad price to bank - assuming Joan Laporta allows Xavi to reinvest it in the squad and assuming that the coach changes his mind on a player who he said ahead of the game he wants to keep for a long time.
With each passing week the Dutchman’s level is dipping, and that really isn’t acceptable at this level.
He’s certainly nowhere close to the player that helped drive Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals and he’s had long enough at the Camp Nou now within which to make his mark.
There’s no longer the excuse of him being played out of position or a manager asking him to fulfil a role that doesn’t come naturally to him either.
It’s fair to say that he’s been out of sorts for some while and a period on the sidelines might well be of benefit.
What’s happened to the driving runs, the anticipation, the late arrivals into the box, the important goals and the high level of passing accuracy… ?
At his age and supposed level of ability, it’s only fair to expect a player of ‘international calibre’ and with his years of experience to be grabbing games by the scruff of the neck.
Were Pedri fit, it would be hard to make a case at the moment for De Jong to get into a starting midfield of Pedri-Busquets-Gavi.
All three are great players, of that there is no doubt, but two are at the very beginning of their careers whilst one is almost at the end.
De Jong should be the first name down in midfield every single week but can you honestly say he deserves it right now?
The fact he’s often described as a ‘hard-working midfielder’ is a bit of a misnomer. That’s the minimum that all culers expect of any player that pulls on the famous old shirt, and sometimes even that’s beyond him.
It was the right decision to sub him on the hour mark, and though he was clearly unhappy with coming off, he can’t have any complaints whatsoever.
Players need to learn - quickly - that if they’re not doing the business, they have to accept the consequences.
If that includes a summer sale, so be it.