Monday, September 20, 2021

Barca´s Luuk de Jong more dangerous than Neymar – Koeman

SoccerNews in La Liga 10 Sep 2021

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Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman believes new signing Luuk de Jong is more dangerous than Neymar from crosses.

LaLiga giants Barca raised eyebrows when they signed Dutch forward de Jong from rivals Sevilla on loan at the end of the transfer window.

De Jong had been linked with a potential return to former club PSV in the Eredivisie and was shunted down to third choice at Sevilla following the signing of Rafa Mir from Wolves.

But late on deadline day, cash-strapped Barca – who already lost superstar Lionel Messi on a free transfer – allowed Antoine Griezmann to depart for Spanish champions Atletico Madrid and the Blaugrana replaced the Frenchman with de Jong on a temporary deal for 2021-22.

Koeman hailed countryman de Jong, who he feels is superior to Paris Saint-Germain star and former Barca forward Neymar in one department.

“When there’s a cross coming in, Luuk is more dangerous than Neymar,” Koeman told NOS.

“He’s a different kind of forward to what we have, and I think all teams should have one like him.”

De Jong averaged 1.1 headed shots per 90 minutes in LaLiga last season, a figure bettered by only four strikers (minimum 900 minutes played).

Similarly, just four forwards bettered his 0.36 headed shots on target per 90 minutes as well.

What makes that figure slightly more impressive is the fact Sevilla would not be considered a ‘direct’ team. According to Opta data, Julen Lopetegui’s men only recorded 35 ‘direct attacks’ last season, the second-fewest in the division, whereas Barcelona’s 67 was the third-highest.

A direct attack is defined as a sequence that begins just inside the team’s own half and has at least 50 per cent of movement towards the opposition’s goal and ends with a shot or touch in the box, so while that does not necessarily mean Barca smash long balls to the front man constantly, it does suggest Koeman’s setup will provide de Jong with chances to be useful.

Koeman added: “I told the club last year [that I wanted to sign de Jong].

“I wanted to be able to change my forwards. If the game calls for someone like Luuk, then he’ll play.

“We lost Antoine Griezmann on the last day of the window and only had three forwards.

“I first made contact with Luuk on August 8 and, even before that, I wondered why Barcelona didn’t have a guy like that.”

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