Erik ten Hag is looking to strengthen his midfield options but Manchester United have run into a transfer target hurdle they have been monitoring for months.
Manchester United suffered yet another setback in their pursuit of a revived Frenkie de Jong to leave Erik ten Hag with a feeling of deja vu.
The Red Devils have been heavily linked with the 25-year-old midfielder throughout the summer, as Barcelona were willing to let him go and an agreement was reached between the clubs. However, De Jong was unwilling to abandon his dream destination and stayed on, infuriating Barca’s leaders and claiming they never wanted to sell the Dutchman.
In a new twist in mid-December, it was revealed that United were exploring a possible second purchase for the former Ajax prodigy. Despite adding Christian Eriksen and Casemiro to his squad over the summer, Ten Hag remains keen to strengthen his midfield.
However, in unsurprising news given the twisty nature of De Jong’s transfer saga, Spanish outlet Sport claim the Camp Nou hierarchy view the player as ‘indispensable’ in their plans. Manager Xavi is reluctant to let him go as he views him as a long-term successor to Sergio Busquets, whose contract is due to expire next summer.
Furthermore, Barca’s leaders will not be asking De Jong to take another pay cut despite such requests being commonplace in Catalonia in recent years to help the club overcome their dire financial straits. This is in recognition of De Jong’s position in the squad and may be influenced by the wage-cutting mess that followed in the summer.
One of the main sticking points in the midfield negotiations earlier this year was the issue of unpaid wages. De Jong is believed to be owed £17m by his club which he has agreed to put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.
United were reportedly willing to pay this amount to secure a cross-border transfer but the player’s preference to stay ended their chances of doing so. Undeterred, the Red Devils have returned to try and sign De Jong in the January window, forcing Barcelona president Joan Laporta to issue a hands-off warning.
“In midfield, I never wanted to sell Frenkie de Jong because he is one of the best players we have,” Laporta said last week. .He is one great talent, young, and one of the leaders of the team.”
De Jong has scored two goals in 17 appearances in all competitions this season, although he has not always been a mainstay in the starting XI. The Netherlands international has helped the Blaugrana climb to the top of La Liga as they aim to recapture the title from Real Madrid.