Xavi wants Frenkie de Jong at Barcelona ‘for many years’

Xavi Hernandez has backed Frenkie de Jong to be at Barcelona “for many years,” praising the midfielder’s improvement since the coach took over earlier this season.

The Netherlands international has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou in recent months, with Barca’s difficult financial situation — and increased midfield competition from youngsters Pedri, Gavi and Nico — leading to suggestions De Jong could be available for transfer.

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“For me, Frenkie is a great player,” Xavi said in a news conference on Saturday ahead of Barcelona’s LaLiga game at Valencia. “I think he’s taken a step forward since we arrived. He’s a different player, more dynamic.

“He had some discomfort in his calf which didn’t allow him to play well in the Supercopa against Real Madrid. Now he looks comfortable, he isn’t losing the ball, he’s helping in defence, he’s getting into the box, he’s scoring goals. He’s a player to be at Barca for many years.”

De Jong, 24, was one of Europe’s most highly rated young midfielders when he joined Barcelona from Ajax in a deal worth €86 million in 2019, signing a long-term contract until 2026.

He faced some criticism for his performances as the team struggled under previous coach Ronald Koeman, before the appointment of Xavi in November.

“[De Jong] is happy here,” Xavi said. “There are a lot of games, and we’ll have to rotate in midfield as it’s very demanding physically but he’s important. He’s playing at a very good level. He’s very demanding on himself. He’s a great professional and he’ll keep improving.”

De Jong also spoke about his future on Saturday, admitting that his first two seasons at Camp Nou had not gone entirely as planned.

“I would have liked to win more trophies than we did in my first two years,” he told the Guardian. “I expected more in that sense, let’s put it that way but other than that, I’m very happy here and hopefully for many more years.”

Barcelona travel to Valencia on Sunday looking for three points to boost their chances of finishing in LaLiga’s top four, ahead of rivals Atletico Madrid and Villarreal.

Xavi backed Ferran Torres after he missed several chances in Barca’s 1-1 Europa League draw with Napoli — saying he had “absolute confidence” in the January signing — and said Ousmane Dembele could start at Valencia, after impressing off the bench on Thursday.

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