FRENKIE DE JONG dreamed of Barcelona but it was Merseyside that influenced his mother’s mind.
Marjon Schuchhard gave birth to Ajax’s young superstar on May 12, 1997, enduring a 33-hour long labour, before naming him after her love from Liverpool.
Healthcare worker Schuchhard was a fan of the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood and named her first-born after them – replacing the ‘a’ for an ‘e’ as she knew no-one by that name.
But it’s not the bright lights of Los Angeles for De Jong: Instead, Frenkie goes to Barcelona.
In January, the Catalan club forked out £65million for the 21-year-old midfielder from the small village of Arkel in South Holland.
De Jong is following in the footsteps of Dutch icons Johan Cruyff, Ronald Koeman, Patrick Kluivert and Marc Overmars in playing for both Ajax and Barca.
De Jong, who was also wanted by Pep Guardiola’s Man City, spoke to both Koeman and Overmars before making the decision.
“I asked [Marc] about Barcelona and he said, ‘It’s amazing, I went there for four years. It was amazing – the players and the people in the city, just to live there. If you get the chance, you have to take it’,” De Jong recalled.
And he did, signing a five-year deal with the Spanish giants.
But De Jong could join them this summer as a European champion, as his Ajax side time on Tottenham in their Champions League semi-final first leg tonight.
Expectation around him so great that many have compared the youngster to Holland’s most outstanding export: Cruyff.
“I feel honoured but I don’t think you can compare the two of us,” De Jong told The Guardian.
De Jong began playing aged four after his grandfather took him to the local club’s open day[/caption]
Midfielder De Jong was picked up by Willem II at the age of seven[/caption]
De Jong has shot to fame at Dutch giants Ajax and was wanted by Man City[/caption]
De Jong chose Barcelona and signed a £65m move in January[/caption]
“He is so much better than me. He had so much quality. I will never reach that level.”
De Jong’s career began at the age of four when his father, a traffic warden, took him to an open day at their local club.
“Frenkie outplayed all the eight- and nine-year old boys,” his grandfather Jan de Bruijn told Dutch newspaper NRC.
Willem II, renowned for developing the likes of Virgil van Dijk, picked up De Jong at the age of seven.
His grandfather would do the one-hour drive to Tilburg for training while his parents worked.
BOY TO MAN
It was there at Willem II that De Jong met his girlfriend, Mikky Kiemeney, a former hockey player who debuted for HC Den Bosch’s women’s team in 2015, aged 17.
Kiemeney posted a photo of the childhood sweethearts on Instagram in September 2015 when De Jong signed for Ajax.
By now, he had shot up and filled out.
Despite the move, De Jong would make the hour-long journey from the Dutch capital to his hometown to visit his mother.
On the way, he would always stop in at his grandparents for his favourite meatballs.
De Jong will be part of the Ajax side that take on Tottenham in the Champions League semi-final[/caption]
De Jong’s girlfriend is former hockey player Mikky Kiemeney[/caption]
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Those trips may not be so frequent when he makes the 1,000-mile move to Barcelona this summer.
Yet the lure of Lionel Messi was far too strong.
Childhood friend Sander Dekkers told NRC: “Joining the Messi club is very special to him.
“But it is not enough. Frenkie wants to be the best midfielder in the world, yes, perhaps the best football player in the world.”
Amsterdam? Barcelona? Hollywood? Wherever, Frenkie is going places.
De Jong starred in Willem II’s academy where Virgil van Dijk was developed[/caption]
The Dutch midfielder stayed until the age of 17 when he left for Ajax[/caption]