Henk ten Cate: Barcelona Will Sign 'Mixture of Deco and Xavi' Frenkie de Jong

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2018

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 11: (L-R) Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax, Frenkie de Jong of Ajax during the Dutch Eredivisie  match between Excelsior v Ajax at the Van Donge & De Roo Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Rotterdam Netherlands (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Former Barcelona assistant boss Henk ten Cate believes the club will sign Ajax starlets Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, noting the former has similarities to past Camp Nou stars Xavi and Deco. 

The Dutchman, who assisted former Barca manager Frank Rijkaard from 2003 to 2006, told Mundo Deportivo's Roger Torello (h/t Goal):

"It cannot be compared, De Jong can be a mixture of Deco and Xavi, but he is De Jong. It is always difficult to compare players. Both Xavi and Deco were from another planet; De Jong has the talent, but he must still prove it and that his injuries are respected."

Per Goal, both De Jong and De Ligt have been linked with a move to the Camp Nou. Ten Cate isn't convinced they're ready for that yet but believes it's time they left Ajax as the Eredivisie is "too easy" and leaving would be "the best decision for their careers."

He continued:

"I think that with their age they are players who need to play every week and the chances of playing at Barca are not so great. When someone arrives at Barca they have to be ready.

"My opinion is that Barca will sign them but transfer them to another club so that they can get experience at the highest level, but not at Barca. They are players with a lot of quality but to grow they need to play, not be on the bench."

On Friday, the pair helped the Netherlands record a 2-0 win over world champions France in the UEFA Nations League, and football writer Elko Born was impressed with both of them:

Elko Born @Elko_B

Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong are also developing into extreme ballers.

De Jong particularly stood out with a dominant performance in midfield:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

🍊 Frenkie de Jong vs France: 🥇 Most touches -- 112 (30 more than any other player) 🥇 Most passes -- 95 (93 per cent accuracy) Tackles -- 2 Interceptions -- 2 Rating -- 7.83 Match centre -- https://t.co/J4wToDebqV https://t.co/9UmIluoLa3

The likes of Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic are excellent players who bring much to Barcelona's midfield, but the Blaugrana have lacked someone who can dictate games from the centre since Xavi left in 2015.

Although Xavi's are considerable boots to fill, De Jong looks like he could exert a similar influence on games.

He did as much against France, as ESPN's David Cartlidge noted:

David Cartlidge @davidjaca

Not just Memphis key though. How Frenkie de Jong imposed himself was vital. Knocked France off balance, didn't allow them to get any foothold - 112 touches and 88 passes tells you everything about his level of control.

De Jong, 21, is two years older than De Ligt and as such he is further along in his development.

The latter is an exciting prospect at centre-back, though, and would be well suited to Barca's game. He's composed in possession and is already a leader, too, having donned the captain's armband at Ajax since the back end of last season.

Grup 14's Rafael Hernandez wants to see Barcelona splash out and recruit both:

Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117

Barcelona should just throw €140m at Ajax, make Overmars over the moon to sign De Jong and De Ligt. No more excuses, they already look like once in a generation type of footballers for a possession based style of play.

While Ten Cate isn't convinced either is ready to start for Barca, De Jong will be 22 by the end of the season and likely ready to make a step up from Ajax. Given his suitability to the Catalan giants' play, it may not be too long before he'd be commanding a regular starting berth.

As for De Ligt, he would be unlikely to unseat Samuel Umtiti or Gerard Pique in their first-choice centre-back partnership.

The latter's form has been inconsistent this season and he'll be 32 in February, though, so there would be a clear path to regular football at the Camp Nou even if he would only be a back-up initially.

The pair would both be excellent signings, so Barca won't want to miss out and see them join a rival instead.