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Frenkie de Jong is no ordinary player. He is the engine of the team and the arguably the most important playmaker in the side. For 200 games, just about every midfield play has passed by his feet, and after making that major milestone against Salamanca, he took some time out to sit down and discuss a number of issues with the club media.
Frenkie, 200 games for Barça. How does that feel?
“I'm very proud to reach 200 appearances for Barça. It means a lot to me but i think winning trophies is more important than amassing games”
What have been the best and worst moments?
“The worst was the day against Bayern in the Champions League and the best was winning La Liga last year”.
The last Super Cup Final wan't a great moment either. What conclusions can you draw?
“We didn't play well in that game, but one game doesn't make a season. We lost the final to Madrid and deservedly so. It was a fair result. We need to improve. But losing one game, and we lost it badly, doesn't mean we're having a bad season or anything. There are three titles still to play for. We're in the quarter finals of the cup. We're still in the Champions League. And we're going to do everything possible to get back into contention in the league.”.
What's you assessment halfway through the season?
“We know we have to improve but the quality is there. The football isn't bad either. But we're lacking decisiveness, concentration sometimes. We have to improve that, and focused all game. If we do all that, we have a very good squad to fight for every title”.
Compared to the first 29 official games last season you have scored 7 goals fewer and conceded 11 more. How can that be improved?
“How do we improve that? Take our chances! I think we might have generated more chances than last year at the stage we're at in the league. But as a team in defence we sometimes aren't concentrating for 90 minutes. You can't gift anything to your opponents because they'll take the chances they get. I think that's the most important part”.
After two years getting knocked out in the group stage, what is a realistic target in the Champions League this season?
“If you are in a competition you are in it to win it. Every team's goal is to win the Champions League, us too. That doesn't mean that if we don't win the Champions League it would be a disaster, but if you are in a competition, you are there to win it.”
It's still a month away, but what do you expect from the games with Napoli?
“Napoli are a very good team. They're still champions of Italy and they have very good, top class players. They're very talented, like us. We'll see, because there are games before Napoli, but it's exciting to be back in the last 16 after two years going out in the group stage. We want to qualify and we'll do everything possible to reach the next round”.
You beat in the Europa League two years ago and they're eighth in your league, 20 off the lead. Are Barça slight favourites?
“I don't know. These games are different. Napoli aren't doing in the league what they did last year but they have more or less the same team, with very good players. If they are on form they are a very difficult opponent, but we also have a very good squad. We want to qualify for the next round and it doesn't matter who's favourite before. We have to show that we're better on the pitch”.
If you can get back to winning ways in the league, do you still think you can retain the title? Can you make up the difference?
“It depends on Madrid and Girona and we can't do anything about that. But I do think we have the squad and if we improve a few things we have a very good chance of winning a lot of the games we have left. So I think we can still fight for the league”.
And what about the cup?
“Barça always have a chance in any competition. We're in the quarters, that's just three games to reach the final and four to win it. Me and the rest of the team are excited about the cup. We have a chance but it'll be difficult”.
How has Frenkie de Jong changed since coming to Barça in 2019?
“I'm a few years older and perhaps I've matured a bit. I hope I've improved as a player and will continue to improve and continue winning titles”.
How could you improve?
“I think I could improve in every aspect. All the players are very top quality and there's nobody unable to make passes or defend, so it's more a question of making small adjustments”.
How does it feel that new players like Fermín and Gavi have said that you are their role model?
“I'm happy they say that about me. I always try to do my best and set a good example. If people appreciate that, I'm happy”.
How have the absences of Gavi and Ter Stegen affected things?
“Missing players always affect the team, especially when they are as important as Gavi and Marc. All teams are hit by the absence of regular starters. Us too”.
And to finish, how's fatherhood? Are you sleeping less than before?
“I'm sleeping fine, to be sure! He sleeps well. Mikky, the mother, is also doing a great job. It's a joy. It's hard to explain, but when your child smiles, or you're with him, everything feels right”.
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