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08-Jun-2020, 12:55 am

De Jong admits 'guilty' feeling over Valverde's Barca dismissal

Ernesto Valverde Barcelona 2018-19

Frenkie de Jong has revealed it was Ernesto Valverde's sacking in January that drilled home to him how high the standards are set at Barcelona.

The Dutch midfielder arrived from Ajax last July, but he spent just six months working with head coach Valverde.

A dismal performance by Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana against Atletico Madrid was the final straw for the club's board, after a string of jarring displays.

Yet at the time of Valverde's dismissal, Barcelona sat top of La Liga's table, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference, and they had safely secured a place in the Champions League knockout rounds.

Valverde's exit and Quique Setien's swift arrival to take the reins showed De Jong that demands on coaches at top clubs in Spain are particularly high.

"Especially at Barcelona," De Jong said. "It's a bit of the same as in Ajax: you have to play good and you have to win everything.

"When one of the two is not there, it's already difficult for the team and the coach, so the pressure is really high here. They are demanding the best football in the world and they want to win every prize, but I like this idea a lot."

Although De Jong appreciates such lofty expectations and has come to understand the ruthless ways of life at Camp Nou, there was a sense of guilt at Valverde being the fall guy.

"Yes, of course, because when a coach is sacked that's always about the way the team is playing and they are holding the coach responsible for it," De Jong told BBC Radio Five Live.

"But of course you're feeling guilty because the players have to show it on the field.

"We were not doing terrible because we were first in the table when he left."

Barcelona's players agreed a 70 per cent pay cut in March to help the club through the coronavirus period.

De Jong suspects further talks are happening in regard to what happens next over salaries.

"I think we already made an agreement for some months with the club, as everybody knows, and I think - I don't know - the club and some players are negotiating now," De Jong said.

"I'm not one of them. I'm not the talker from the group or something, or I'm not one of the captains, so I think they are speaking and we will see how it turns out."

Barcelona are days away from returning to action, with a trip to face Mallorca next Saturday their first match since the COVID-19 crisis caused football to be closed down in Spain.

De Jong is relieved the waiting is almost over.

"From the moment we could start training again, everyone was desperate to compete again and be with each other again," he said. "It's really good at the moment."

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