Wijnaldum explains how 'special' De Jong makes Netherlands better
Georginio Wijnaldum has hailed Frenkie de Jong's impact on the Netherlands team, saying the midfielder makes them play better.
The 21-year-old has become an important part of the Oranje squad since making his debut in a 2-1 win over Peru in September and helped them finish first in their UEFA Nations League group as they beat France and drew with Germany this month.
De Jong's performances for Ajax have attracted interest from Barcelona and Manchester City, as he has been highlighted as one of the best young players in Europe.
And Liverpool star Wijnaldum says De Jong has excelled since establishing himself in Ronald Koeman's team and feels he is benefiting from playing alongside him.
"With his dribbles he always ensures there is a good connection from defence to midfield and from midfield to attack," Wijnaldum told Voetbal International.
"He is always able to create space because he is a) always available and b) with his actions he creates many situations: he forces opponents to choose, they have to come out of position, lose their marker, which can automatically make space or give us a free man. That makes it easier for me to play football. I am someone who naturally likes to move. With Frenkie, I can play much more in the possession, so that in certain situations I also get closer to the opponent's goal. The goals against Germany and France are good examples. I can get there on time now, whereas it was much more difficult for me, because I played a controlling role.
"[He is] so good and special that in Netherlands you don't hear anyone say he must play faster when he starts dribbling. I find that special. I know, the ball is always faster, but sometimes you have to let players dribble to make a difference.
"Now young players get to hear that they are taking it too far, while I think: 'No, let them develop it!' Why do you think we were able to play that stiff French team from time to time? That has to do with the skills of the Dutch players. If you have that in your team, that's a blessing."
Netherlands have improved dramatically since Koeman replaced Dick Advocaat at the helm in February, and Wijnaldum believes the midfield has become a pivotal part of the team since De Jong's introduction.
"In the 5-3-2 system I had a controlling job alongside Kevin Strootman. In itself it's no problem, but you depend on what is happening around you," he added.
"With a bit of shuffling it becomes a 3-4-3, which is already a lot more attacking. The only problem is that you basically defend very close to your own half and that the spaces are in front, but you can't always get there very quickly.
"Now we play with three midfielders, one of whom is a holder and two in an attacker role. That suits me much better, while Frenkie de Jong ensures that we also play better as a team."