If anyone told you a couple of years back that Luuk de Jong would be playing for FC Barcelona in 2021, you probably wouldn’t believe it. Yet, the club’s structural and stylistic mess mean that even players of his profile could end up in blaugrana colours. Upon Koeman’s request, the signing of a striker has been sealed.
There isn’t much to suggest that de Jong is suited for Barça. His technique, awareness and ball control have never stood out. Instead, it’s his physique and aerial dominance that have defined him as a footballer. His hold-up play is quite decent and had been constantly exploited during his time at PSV Eindhoven. But even as a towering number 9, his functions are limited. With the ball on the ground, Luuk is almost of no use, being much more adept at getting the better of his opponent when a cross comes in.
Evidently, a player like Luuk de Jong would have never been considered an option during the tenures of Guardiola, Tito or Enrique. But for Ronald Koeman, his 31-year-old compatriot could certainly come in handy. Time and again, the coach has been questioned when it comes to his lack of plan B and tactical improvisation mid-game. A frequent pattern was a total reliance on the flanks, from where crosses would be delivered almost unremittingly. And it’s for this exact reason that Luuk has been drafted into the team.
Realistically, the option to make his move permanent will not be triggered. Koeman is unlikely to stay, and so are his lambasted principles. The arrival of another manager will inevitably shuffle the deck. And the prospect of Luuk de Jong being part of his long-term plans is slim. In any case, the fact that his arrival was completed on Koeman’s accord suggests that, as long as he stays, de Jong will have a role to play.