Netherlands internationals Frenkie De Jong and Memphis Depay need more minutes under their belt at Barcelona this season if they are to make an impact at the World Cup, former Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert has said.
As the national team returns to the World Cup after missing out on qualification in 2018, the experienced duo are crucial to the Netherlands’ chances, with De Jong establishing himself as one of Dutch manager Louis van Gaal’s favourites.
Both players were pressured to leave Barcelona in the close season to make way for new recruits but they stayed put, with Kluivert saying that decision may have limited their opportunities on the pitch.
Play 75 minutes
“It’s not a good sign, everybody knows the level of the World Cup. You need to have minutes in the legs to be able to perform in the World Cup,” Kluivert told Reuters when he was in India for a screening of LaLiga’s ‘El Clasico’.
“At this level, in the World Cup, the most important thing to be able to do is to play at least 75 minutes full on.
“Xavi knows what players he wants to start, I think he’s very clear. If the players don’t want to leave for whatever reason, then they also need to know the consequences - that they won’t play the minutes they need before the World Cup.”
The Dutch team are on a 15-match unbeaten run ahead of their campaign in Qatar but Kluivert said that means nothing at the World Cup which is “a different ball game”.
“I think that they will pass through the group stage and after that, in the quarter-finals the real World Cup starts,” Kluivert said.
“I think there they will face some difficulties with other countries - France, Brazil and Argentina. Those countries have players who can decide a game in one second.” The last time Van Gaal coached the Netherlands, he led them to the semi-finals in 2014 and a third-placed finish.
While some of the current players have complained about Van Gaal’s switch from the traditional 4-3-3 to a back-three with wing backs, Kluivert, who was on the Dutch team’s coaching staff in 2014, said the system was ideal.
“There was also some complaining in 2014 also (when) it was a 3-5-2,” Kluivert said with a laugh.
“Some players were not happy, some were. But at the end, they played the system that Van Gaal put on the table and that’s the 3-5-2.
“The Dutch national team has the players to play that system. If everybody puts their nose in the right direction, it could be very, very useful.”