EL PRÓXIMO MEDIOCAMPISTA DOMINANTE

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Como consecuencia de la revolución que Pep Guardiola generó en el mundo del fútbol desde su llegada al primer equipo del Barcelona, no caben dudas de que las funciones y las características de los mediocampistas en los principales equipos del mundo cambiaron de forma considerable. A día de hoy es raro encontrar en esa posición a futbolistas que se dediquen exclusivamente a la recuperación de la pelota como podía suceder años atrás, ya que ahora se requiere que cumplan con un mayor abanico de tareas. Para dominar al rival desde la pelota, es fundamental contar con jugadores en la mitad de la cancha que tengan un alto grado de técnica y de lectura de juego. De esta manera permiten dar continuidad a la posesión y encontrar siempre el pase correcto, ya sea para romper líneas frente a un bloque cerrado o para salir airosos de la presión. Llevándolo a nombres propios, los principales referentes de esta tipología de volante en la última década podrían ser Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Luka Modric o Toni Kroos. Y pensando en los años venideros, quien hoy parece mejor posicionado para ser el próximo gran talento de este perfil es el holandés Frenkie de Jong.

Surgido de la cantera del Willem II, De Jong fue comprado por el Ajax a mediados de 2015 y, tras permanecer un semestre a préstamo en su club de origen, pasó a formar parte de las filas del conjunto de Ámsterdam a comienzos de 2016. Comenzaría a jugar con algo más de continuidad en la temporada 2017/18, aunque su explosión definitiva llegó recién en la 2018/19. Este último año se convirtió en parte fundamental del equipo dirigido por Erik ten Hag, que llegó a semifinales de Champions League y se quedó con el primer puesto en la Eredivisie y en la Copa de Holanda, jugando un fútbol espectacular. Como consecuencia de su gran nivel en enero se confirmó la noticia de su traspaso al Barcelona, una institución históricamente conectada con el fútbol holandés y con el Ajax en particular, con Johan Cruyff como máximo exponente de esta estrecha relación. La operación se concretó a cambio de 75 millones de euros que pueden convertirse en 86 según distintas variables, lo que convertiría a Frenkie en el futbolista de los Países Bajos más caro de la historia.

Yendo a los aspectos puramente futbolísticos, lo primero que hay que decir de De Jong es que dista mucho de ser un jugador convencional. Cuesta encasillarlo en un lugar específico, justamente porque realiza tareas que suelen relacionarse con puestos diferentes. Le gusta bajar a recibir entre los centrales como un mediocentro, pero realiza giros y conducciones hacia adelante dignas del mejor interior. “Me da igual en qué posición del mediocampo juegue, yo sólo quiero tocar mucho el balón”, afirmó luego de la victoria de su selección frente a Inglaterra en las semifinales de la UEFA Nations League. Y queda claro que cada vez que lo toca, su equipo sale ganando, porque Frenkie es una máquina de generar ventajas para sus compañeros con pases tensos y al ras del suelo que rompen líneas con una facilidad pasmosa. Por momentos casi que parece un futbolista inmune a la presión que los rivales ejercen sobre él: no importa qué tan compleja parezca la situación, él se las ingenia para salir airoso. Mientras espera que le llegue la pelota gira su cuello constantemente para tener presente la ubicación de sus compañeros, y así cuando recibe, siempre bien perfilado, todo le resulta más sencillo. Por si fuera poco, todos sus movimientos transmiten una tranquilidad sorprendente, como si supiera exactamente qué hacer en cada momento. Y ejecuta cada acción con mucha armonía y elegancia. En idioma futbolero, da la sensación de que le sobra. A nivel defensivo su mayor virtud es la capacidad de ubicación, que lo ayuda a estar siempre en el lugar correcto para volver a recuperar rápido y mantener a su equipo constantemente en campo rival. Resta ver un poco más cómo se adapta a una defensa más ligada al campo propio, en contexto de repliegues y obligación de defender espacios cerca de su arco.

En clave Barcelona, imaginar dónde va a jugar resulta una verdadera incógnita. Tanto en Ajax como en la selección holandesa suele ubicarse como uno de los dos mediocampistas más retrasados en un 4-2-3-1, lo que le permite iniciar el juego desde la base de la jugada, donde se ve lo mejor de él, para eventualmente desprenderse hacia adelante con el respaldo de su compañero en el doble pivote. Rara vez se lo ve ocupar posiciones intermedias o buscar recibir entre líneas, por lo que pensarlo como interior en el habitual 4-3-3 del conjunto español resulta bastante complicado. Pero de la misma manera, ser el hombre más retrasado en el vértice de la mitad de la cancha, con esa disposición, resultaría contraproducente para sus conducciones porque el equipo podría quedar muy mal parado en caso de pérdida. ¿Cambiará su juego para adaptarse definitivamente a alguna de las dos posiciones? ¿O será el conjunto blaugrana el que cambie su esquema histórico para dar cabida a su nuevo talento? Son preguntas que irán encontrando respuesta con el correr de los meses, pero no hay dudas de que De Jong encontrará la forma de imponer su juego. Está destinado a ser un futbolista dominante en la próxima década, y llegó a la élite para quedarse.

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