Analysis, feature pieces

Man Utd’s pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Frankie de Jong drags on, with other options linked

Frenkie de Jong of the Netherlands during the UEFA Nations League A Group 4 match between the Netherlands and Wales at the Stadion Feyenoord on June...

Manchester United have informed Barcelona they want to conclude a deal to sign Dutch international Frenkie de Jong by Friday, per reports today. Paul Pogba’s Juventus return on a free is among their summer departures, with Wolves’ Ruben Neves and Leicester’s wantaway star Youri Tielemans linked as possible alternatives should they fail to sign the 25-year-old.

Verbal agreement but de Jong wants to stay? What’s going on

Frenkie De Jong of FC Barcelona runs with the ball during the LaLiga Santander match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou on May 22,...
de Jong in action for Barcelona during their end-of-season 2-0 defeat by Villareal on May 22
  • Manchester United in talks with Barcelona to sign Frenkie de Jong since June
  • 25-year-old midfielder and sources close to him reaffirm desire to remain at the club 
  • Utd’s new boss Erik ten Hag, who he played under at Ajax, eager for a reunion

United’s chief executive Richard Arnold and football director John Murtough were spotted in Barcelona today, as they look to put the finishing touches on a high-profile transfer deal that has uncomfortably flickered between refreshing positive and awkwardly problematic recently.

While playmakers Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard are now free agents after their contracts officially expired last month, experienced defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic (Roma) and the divisive club-record signing Paul Pogba (Juventus) have ventured to Italy for free so far this summer.

Erik ten Hag, the club’s new manager, has been linked with multiple midfield options but de Jong – who he worked with during their time together at Ajax – is heralded as his prime target.

The Red Devils were said to have reached a “broad agreement” to sign de Jong for €65m (£56.2m) plus add-ons two weeks ago, but news on that front has gone cold since.

It appears, among other factors, the main issue this deal is being delayed relates to Barca owing him £13.7m in wages, after he – and other teammates – agreed to defer some of their money as financial aid to balance the club’s books during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Wolves’ Ruben Neves and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans – who rejected a contract extension last year – are among the contingency plans in case United’s de Jong pursuit fails.

Barca’s club president Joan Laporta stressed last Thursday that he’ll personally do whatever he could to ensure Frenkie remains at the Camp Nou, and this in-depth piece by Pol Ballus in The Athletic goes a long way towards explaining the intricacies of the finances involved.

We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out, but either way, Barcelona aren’t in a position of financial strength, so making unwanted player sales felt inevitable at some stage given the excessive way they’ve spent money over the past half-decade. United won’t mind one bit.

Picture source: Getty Images


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