Ajax Star Frenkie de Jong Dismisses Johan Cruyff Comparisons

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 26, 2018

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 11: 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

Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong has rejected comparisons between him and football legend Johan Cruyff, saying he will never be at the level to merit such talk.

Football Espana cited comments De Jong recently gave to De Telegraaf (h/t AS) and previous remarks regarding his intuition on the pitch, which has led to some likening him to the late Cruyff.

De Jong said: "I try not to pay attention to talk of comparisons, I only want to focus on myself. It is good to hear that people are talking like that but the truth is I am not at Cruyff's level of talent and I never will be, so it is not something I think about."

The 21-year-old is a central midfielder by trade but has also shown great composure when deployed as a centre-back on occasion, a sign that De Jong is a gifted, well-rounded footballer.

Journalist Valentijn Driessen recently gave a more grounded comparison between the current Ajax star and Cruyff, arguably the best player to have emerged from the Netherlands, per Dutch-Football:

Dutch Football @FootballOranje_

Valentin Driessen in De Telegraaf, "Frenkie De Jong reminded us of Johan Cruijff. De Jong is not a Cruyff, nor a second Cruijff, but the image of a whiff of Cruijff insisted because he possesses a number of qualities that Cruijff displayed so emphatically during his career." https://t.co/E7prG3gcqf

Willem II academy product De Jong has completed 91.8 per cent of his passes in the Eredivisie this season, and no midfielder in the division has a more accurate record, per WhoScored.com.

Cruyff was also a precise passer, but his greatest attributes were in his awareness and invention. He would often orchestrate teams on the pitch—he popularised the player-manager role—and saw opportunities lesser stars didn't.

De Jong made seven assists in the Eredivisie last season—his first playing consistently in the first team—although he only has one goal to show for his efforts in 11 league outings this term.

Ball retention was also a major component in Cruyff's philosophy as a player, coach and director, and De Jong has demonstrated he at least follows the comparison in that regard, per OptaPro:

OptaPro @OptaPro

BLOG: Frenkie de Jong on song. In his first article for OptaPro, @NilsMackay applies a range of analytical metrics to assess the performances of the midfielder. Debut. https://t.co/qjMSlTHNkQ https://t.co/qJGkFTWKay

As is to be expected from a youngster earning such plaudits, De Jong is also attracting attention from outside Amsterdam and is said to be a target for Barcelona and Real Madrid, per Football Espana.

It may seem like typical speculation, although writer Simon Kuper picked midfield maestro De Jong and Ajax team-mate Matthijs de Ligt as rare talents:

Simon Kuper @KuperSimon

In 1986, when I was 16, I wrote my first ever paid football articles on 2 rising young Dutch talents: Gullit + Van Basten. Now, after Holland beat France, me for @ESPN on Frenkie de Jong + Matthijs de Ligt https://t.co/CXF1kwe0LO

Cruyff was 26 by the time he joined Barcelona from boyhood club Ajax, who were then a much more considerable force in Europe and the pressures on young players were not so great.