KEY POINTS

  • Frenkie de Jong has been Ronald Koeman's top priority since being appointed Barcelona manager, a report says
  • De Jong has the most playing time among Barca players so far this season with 890 minutes
  • The Dutch manager is uncertain about Lionel Messi's future in Barcelona

Barcelona youngster Frenkie de Jong has been more active than Lionel Messi and is reportedly the only “untouchable” player in Ronald Koeman’s squad this season.

Since Koeman’s arrival at Camp Nou, the boundary has been set between key and expendable players. The departure of Luis Suarez has already set the tone for Koeman’s new plans for Barcelona, and shockingly, stats prove that the Dutchman has trusted one player more than Messi.

In his debut season as Barca’s coach, Koeman has used fellow countryman De Jong more often than Messi on the pitch. The Dutch midfielder is “at the top” of Koeman’s preferences and has been deemed the only “untouchable” player in Barcelona at present, Spanish outlet Marca reported.

De Jong has been one of the Koeman’s priorities since being appointed as Barca’s new manager in the summer. The coach’s confidence in the 23-year-old midfielder is reflected by his decision to include him in the starting 11 in all 10 games they’ve played this season.

In fact, De Jong is the only player who has not undergone a replacement and is also the player Koeman has handed the most minutes inside the pitch – 890.

With 855 recorded minutes on the pitch, Messi is the second player with the most playing time and has only not started a game in the clash against Real Betis, the report added.

Despite the incredible stat which puts De Jong above Messi in the current campaign, the six-time Ballon d’ Or winner is still classified as somewhat “untouchable” as well. Along with Sergio Busquets, Ansu Fati and Pedri, Messi is still one of the key pieces in Koeman's squad, having participated in all 10 games this season but as a substitute on some occasions.

Regardless of Koeman’s preference, De Jong has no issue with Messi and has even lauded the Argentine for his leadership.

Meanwhile, Messi’s future with Barcelona remains uncertain. For Koeman, the superstar should “stay,” but it is beyond his responsibilities to convince the 33-year-old.

"Messi still has a contract and in my opinion he has to stay here," Koeman said in a press conference ahead of Saturday's La Liga game against Atletico Madrid.

"But I am not the person that has to try to make him stay here,” he continued. “We will see about his future, still he is a Barcelona player. Nobody knows what will happen with the future of Messi."

Stop arguing: Lionel Messi said he wants everyone at Barcelona to pull together Stop arguing: Lionel Messi said he wants everyone at Barcelona to pull together Photo: AFP / Josep LAGO