Frenkie de Jong has responded to Ivan Rakitic's comments that the Dutchman won't take his place in Barcelona's midfield by saying he won't be the one picking the team at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona agreed a €75 million deal in January to sign Ajax star De Jong this summer. Rakitic recently indicated that the role the Netherlands plays in midfield is already taken at the Camp Nou. He said: "Every good player can come to Barca, I'll be happy. But, I'm convinced De Jong is not coming for my position, because it's occupied."
However, the incoming star appeared on Veronica Inside (h/t Marca) and was calm responding to his soon-to-be team-mate.
He said: "[Barcelona] told me that I'd be joining to take up one of the three positions in midfield. We'll see what happens. I'm not going to be the one saying which position I want to play."
De Jong's comments suggest he may have been given assurances over his right to one of the starting spots in midfield.
Manager Ernesto Valverde also has Sergio Busquets, Arthur and Arturo Vidal jostling for one of those three spaces, not to mention under-performing Philippe Coutinho and emerging star Carles Alena, 21.
De Jong travelled back to the Camp Nou for his first interview in March and gave his new supporters insight into his game, as well as his motivations for joining Barcelona:
Rakitic, 31, has a contract at the Camp Nou until 2021 and has been a fixture under Valverde. The former Sevilla linchpin started in all but six of his 54 appearances for Barca this campaign, and he's played in at least 51 games in each of his five seasons in Catalonia (268 in total).
Barcelona were disappointed to have not featured in the UEFA Champions League final this season following a shock defeat to Liverpool in the semis. They also suffered a surprise loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final and were left with the La Liga title as a sole consolation.
Sportswriter Andy West highlighted Rakitic as one of the stalwarts who could be sacrificed to make way for a new generation:
Andy West @andywest01
It's clear the team needs a fresh start. Busquets, Rakitic, Suarez, Alba, Pique are on the wane (can still play important roles but not as undisputed starters). New blood is needed and I'm not sure Valverde has the boldness or dynamism, or credit in the bank, to lead that process
De Jong continued to say he's yet to speak with his next manager, Valverde, who has been subject of scrutiny after ending this term with a single major trophy: "I still haven't had any contact with him. You're telling me that he's under pressure, but that's also due to the media. Nevertheless, I don't know how things are at the club. Did I contact him during my transfer? No, I insist that I've had no contact with him."
The Netherlands youngster can play in central midfield but has also featured at centre-back on occasion. Busquets, 30, tends to be the sitter in Barcelona's lineup, meaning De Jong could be granted the freedom to express more of his attacking traits.
Rakitic showed in this season's UEFA Champions League that he still has the potential for the spectacular in his locker, via BT Sport (UK only):
The Croatia international joined the Blaugrana in 2014 and has established himself as one of Europe's most consistent midfielders in that time.
One can't blame Rakitic for being defensive over his spot in one of the world's best squads, though it seems only a matter of time until incoming De Jong replaces one of the current starters.