The path of a player in Amsterdam seems often to follow the road to Munich. Ajax and Bayern Munich have very similar footballing philosophies and so it is no surprise players choose to move from one to the other. However, one Ajax name eludes the club. FC Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong still hasn’t found his way here from Amsterdam, despite being seemingly perpetually linked with a move to Bayern Munich.
If Bayern can land him — and that’s a big if — what footballing solutions would he provide to the squad?
Frenkie de Jong is a player who has been criminally misinterpreted by most of the fanbases of FC Barcelona and Manchester United. He is not a midfielder who naturally advances in a traditional sense as an 8 or further up the field the way he has been employed at FC Barcelona. He is a 6 who provides dynamism and ball progression from deep, setting a solid base for the midfield. It is a surprisingly little-known fact that Frenkie often played at centre-back for Ajax, including large parts of the legendary 2018/19 season in which Ajax reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. This opens up a lot of options for the team.
4-2-2-2: The double pivot
De Jong’s ability to progress the ball from deep while being astute defensively is amongst the best in the world. I think using him in a role similar to Thiago Álcantara in his final season at Bayern Munich would be ideal. That is to say, have De Jong drop in between the centre-backs and allow the centre-backs to push wider, which in turn allows the wing backs to push forward with more license. De Jong has the engine to push with the wing backs at times and give the now advanced Joshua Kimmich a safer option while not abandoning his defenders.
The main reason I push this forward is the presence of Kimmich in a more advanced role. While we can all agree Kimmich is among the best midfielders in the world on his day, it has to be said that at times his defensive ability is disappointing. While he tracks back regularly and his positioning is perfect, he sometimes commits to challenges too quickly and presses a little too doggedly, abandoning his screening duties. Unchaining him from these responsibilities with a deeper-sitting 6 could unleash Kimmich, especially creatively. He could act as the fulcrum of attack, staying in advanced positions without having to worry about the counter.
3-4-1-2: The full Nagelsmann
This is the more out-there option, but it is certainly intriguing.
De Jong as the central defender in a back five would allow him the freedom to at times push beyond the defensive line and act as a midfielder. With a back five of proper defenders (well, four of them) in place Kimmich can still push forward, although he will not be as free as in the other system. The front three can function freely and Ryan Gravenberch/Leon Goretzka/Leroy Sané (yes, you heard me, this is another one of my crazy machinations) can function in a free role exploring half-spaces and pockets between the lines, acting almost as a mirror of Thomas Müller but allowing Müller to be more central as the 10.
Furthermore, if Müller acts as the central attacking presence, Mazraoui will have the space to invert in the attacking third. This will see him in a similar role to Serge Gnabry’s last season, where he would act as the extra option to drag markers away or catch the defensive line off guard if left unmarked. It’s the role Mazraoui played to perfection at Ajax with the assistance of Antony on the touchline — though granted, that’s one thing he does not have at Bayern.
Side note: I could honestly see Leroy Sané as an advanced 8 or even a straight up box-to-box midfielder. His tracking back and general defensive contribution was outstanding throughout the season, even when he played the 10 position in some games. It seemed like he was everywhere the ball was. He will bring great dynamism and giving him a free role in the 3-4-1-2 will bring him back to his best as he can explore spaces similar to what he was doing as the left inside forward in the 3-4-2-1 of yesteryear. Whatever they do, I pray he isn’t played on the right wing.
So — can it happen?
De Jong has been linked with Bayern seemingly constantly since his second summer in Barcelona. I believe that we have a decent chance at purchasing him next summer, or even loaning him this summer with an option to buy. At €75m, it’s unfeasible, sure — but the player seems convinced Bayern is the only destination for him, and there’s always sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić’s fabled PowerPoint masterclasses.
Bayern Munich have been mercurial in the transfer market as of late. Can you imagine losing one of the greatest players in the history of the club — at the peak of his powers — and still feeling this ecstatic about the transfer window’s business? If the perennial German champions can find a financially feasible way to add Frenkie this year or next, it would be the proverbial cherry on top.
And it just might make us unstoppable.
What do you think of these potential systems? Have I Gep Puardiola’d it with the over-thinking and swapping player roles or is this just crazy enough to work? Would you like to see Bayern Munich go for Frenkie de Jong in the near future? Let us know in the forum below.