Manchester United’s prime target, Frenkie de Jong, is currently taking part in Barcelona’s pre-season tour but it’s been far from pleasant for the Netherlands international.
De Jong is the subject of intense interest from United and Erik ten Hag, with whom he worked at Ajax for 18 months, has made it clear that the midfielder is his number one priority this summer.
United have agreed a fee with Barcelona over De Jong’s transfer but the issue with the 25-year-old’s deferred wages remains, with club official Mateu Alemany admitting that they may be forced to sell him earlier this month.
Nevertheless, De Jong was named in Barcelona’s pre-season squad and following their 1-0 win against Real Madrid on Sunday morning, manager Xavi Hernandez made some interesting remarks.
De Jong was a second-half substitute and played at centre-back, a position he hasn’t filled in at since his early days at Ajax under Ten Hag.
“We’ve had private conversations that are very important and that I will not reveal here. He’s a key player, but then there’s the economic situation and Financial Fair Play,” Xavi said, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“I’m not sending messages to anyone. I like him a lot as a player.
“Playing as a centre-back, he [De Jong] can give us a lot, he can adapt to that position. We want it that the centre-back distributes the ball and he does that very well.”
Xavi has a plethora of midfielders at his disposal and the competition is fierce but De Jong remains their best in that area – demoting him to centre-back feels like yet another play to pressure him into leaving.
On the contrary, De Jong is central to Ten Hag’s plans at United and there’s no other player he would like in midfield. Often in the transfer market, managers draw up their lists of targets with one player as the first choice.
On Ten Hag’s list, De Jong is the list. In his view, there’s not another midfielder out there that can match De Jong and evidently, he will struggle to find that encouragement at Barcelona.
The transfer window is open for another five weeks and United will hope to have their main man by then but from De Jong’s perspective, there’s a clear winner in terms of where he can continue to develop his career.