Netherlands internationals Frenkie De Jong and Memphis Depay need more minutes at Barcelona this season if they want to impress at the World Cup, said former Netherlands striker Patrick Kluivert.
As the national team return to the World Cup after failing to qualify in 2018, the experienced duo are crucial to the Netherlands’ chances, with De Jong establishing themselves as one of Dutch coach Louis van Gaal’s favourites. Both players were pressured to leave Barcelona late in the season to make room for new recruits but they stayed put, with Kluivert saying the decision may have limited their options on the pitch.
“That’s not a good sign, everyone knows the level of the World Cup. You have to have minutes in your legs to perform at the World Cup,” Kluivert told Reuters while in India for a screening of LaLiga ‘El Clasico’.
“At this level in the World Cup, the most important thing is to be able to play at least 75 full minutes. “Xavi knows which players he wants to start with, I think he’s very clear. If, for whatever reason, the players don’t want to leave, then they must also face the consequences of not playing the minutes they need before the World Cup.” The Dutch team are unbeaten in 15 games before their season in Qatar, but Kluivert said, that this means nothing at the World Cup, which is “another ballgame”.
“I think they will get through the group stage and then the actual World Cup will start in the quarter-finals,” said Kluivert.
“I think there they will have some difficulties with other countries like France, Brazil and Argentina. These countries have players who can decide a game in a second.”
The last time Van Gaal coached the Netherlands, he led them to the semifinals and third place in 2014. While some of the current players have complained about Van Gaal’s switch from the traditional 4-3-3 to a back three with full-backs, Kluivert, who was on the Dutch team’s coaching staff in 2014, said the system was ideal. “There were also some complaints in 2014, even (when) it was 3-5-2,” said Kluivert, laughing.
“Some players were not satisfied, others were. But in the end they played the system that Van Gaal put on the table and that is the 3-5-2.
“The Dutch national team has the players to play this system. If everyone points their noses in the right direction, it could be very, very useful.”