On the stroke of half time, Luuk de Jong was brought to ground in the penalty area by a mild kick from behind by an Osasuna defender. There was no penalty shout. Nothing. Just Luuk de Jong’s face immediately wincing in great discomfort. His hands clutching on to his right foot.
Dembele had sailed in a cross from the right flank. At the end of the cross was Luuk de Jong, seemingly all indecisive, without a scintilla of self-purpose and nor real conviction. Not knowing what the hell exactly to do with that floated ball. Whether to pull off a flick or simply dodge. Whether to bring the ball under control or allow for it to sail past into nothingness.
By the end of the first half, the Dutch had completed a scant, measly 7 passes, had touched the ball a mere 17 times (less than Ter Stegen), and had largely remained a complete passenger, an invisible object, a ghost, a shadow, nothing.
Not Good Enough
How did we even get here? That in a must-win away game in La Liga, a player of Luuk De Jong caliber is made to spearhead the attack, even in spite of the very irrefutable fact that the squad has been decimated by injuries to certain key players. It could be argued out he’s a sort of backup. But how good is he even as a backup at a club as demanding and success-hungry as Barcelona?
On what merit exactly is he even remotely the sort of Barca player? On the basis that in Ronald Koeman’s desperate and helpless need to bolster his attacking options, Luuk de Jong was viewed not as a square peg in a round hole but as a truly viable option? Well, in retrospect, how has that panned out?
Luuk’s move to FC Barcelona may only be a season-long loan from Sevilla, without a loan fee paid except his wages taken up by the club, but still this move has largely felt utterly unwise for both parties. No one is gaining here, except Luuk’s CV looking good. The Dutch man isn’t firing on all cylinders. Far from that he’s mostly looked out of place. And there’s a simple realisation that a player of his caliber has no business whatsoever indulging in the Barca culture and way of life.
Failing the Simple Things
Perhaps the greatest comedy of this game was when Luuk de Jong failed at trying to pull off a bicycle kick in the dying minutes. Aiming to score the clincher in an extraordinary way. An ordinary player aspiring to score an extraordinary goal to win it all in injury time for a club he doesn’t belong. Perhaps, this is a tad harsh. The simple fact that Barcelona’s sharp decline into mediocrity has ruthlessly highlighted certain familiar flaws which otherwise might have been overlooked without batting an eyelid in the past.
Barcelona have always had average forwards as backups in the past where the club comparatively prospered. Think Munir. Think Paco Alcacer, Sandro, Tello, Keirrison, Kevin-Prince Boateng. Even now, Martin Braithwaite.
In this game against Osasuna, Luuk de Jong painfully struggled to make any meaningful contribution. Not in his shrewd spatial awareness nor his adroitness to playing off the shoulder of a defender. For all his gigantic stature which should probably propel him to bully defenders into submission, Luuk hardly connects with deliciously floated balls, remains mostly immobile and lacks imagination.
What really are his good traits? Luuk is like that novel on your bookshelf you never seem able to bring yourself to read. Sitting idle, gathering dust, occupying space. Only becomes valuable when every other book has been exhausted. The novelty of the book giving it a nice appeal and nothing else. Despite Xavi fielding 11 players in this game, it felt largely Luuk de Jong added up in numbers not in contribution, in presence not in influence.
And so, on Sunday afternoon, Barcelona found a tinge of inspiration not from Luuk de Jong or any other De Jong on the pitch, but from Abde and Dembele. One only a teenager striving to make a name for himself. The other, an injury-prone winger with vast amount of potential still left untapped. One may wonder if there’s any ounce of potential at all in the 31-year-old Luuk de Jong. For now, he just occupies space and gathers dust, nothing else.