Barcelona signs young Dutch midfielder De Jong for 75M euros

By TALES AZZONI

AP Sports Writer

Barcelona signed promising 21-year-old Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong from Ajax for 75 million euros ($85.5 million) on Wednesday, although he won't start playing for the Spanish champions until next season.

The deal could reach 86 million euros ($98 million) including possible add-ons depending on the youngster's and the team's performances during the five-year contract, which starts in July.

The transfer was finalized by Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu in Amsterdam.

"It's an exciting signing for the club," coach Ernesto Valverde said. "For now and for years to come. He is a player with a great future ahead of him."

De Jong's poise on the ball and eye for a pass has drawn comparisons to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who flourished with Barcelona as a player and as a coach.

Barcelona calls De Jong "one of Europe's most promising midfield talents." It says he has "an excellent reading of the game and ability to provide the killer pass."

The Catalan club says the "versatile" De Jong is "strong in the one-on-one" and can play either as a defensive or attacking midfielder.

"His wonderful vision and natural ability to find the right pass mean he is the perfect choice as a central playmaker," the club said.

De Jong rocketed to fame this season with standout performances for Ajax and the resurgent Dutch national team, prompting his name to be linked with top clubs including Barcelona, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Widely considered a future star for the Dutch national team, De Jong joined Ajax from Willem II in Tilburg. He played 65 matches for Ajax's first team, scoring five goals.

De Jong is the third signing by Barcelona in the winter transfer window, along with forward Kevin-Prince Boateng and defender Jeison Murillo.

He arrives to a team with midfielders that include Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Arturo Vidal and Arthur.

De Jong will continue a tradition of Dutch players who have played for Barcelona, including Cruyff, Ronald Koeman, Marc Overmars, Patrick Kluivert and Franck de Boer. Current reserve goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen also is from the Netherlands.

Associated Press writer Mike Corder contributed from Amsterdam.

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Updated January 23, 2019

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