Frenkie de Jong U-turn spells transfer disaster for Man Utd and Barcelona
De Jong's move to Old Trafford had looked to be close, with various outlets claiming that a deal for the player was imminent, but reports emerging from Spain suggest that might be quite far from the case.
De Jong previously played under Ten Hag at Ajax, the pair winning the Dutch domestic double in 2019 before the former joined Barca for an initial €75 million. But Barca was his dream club then, and it remains so now.
"De Jong is determined to stay with the Blaugrana," write Spanish daily, Sport. "Right now, he has no intention of leaving and he has transmitted this feeling to the two clubs.
"The situation has become tense. No matter how much pressure is put on him, the player wants to succeed in Barcelona. In recent weeks, Frenkie has come to doubt even his agent, Ali Dursun, because of his insistence in placing him at United."
Does Frenkie de Jong even want to move to Man Utd? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/37CAP2ux4X— Football Transfers (@Transfersdotcom) June 28, 2022
Man Utd misery
A De Jong U-turn would be problematic for Man Utd. Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have already left the club this summer - for Juventus and Roma respectively - leaving Scott McTominay and Fred as the only options at the base of the Red Devils' midfield.
De Jong also brings a specific profile to the role - one United have arguably not had since Paul Scholes. That is: a player who is happy to pick the ball off the toe of his centre-backs before getting the ball forward, either by dribbling or passing.
De Jong completed more than 90 per cent of his passes for Barcelona last season, an average of five per game of them progressive, while he boasted seven progressive carries per 90 - that is, breaking the lines whilst still in possession.
A unique talent and one their new coach knows well, United would be loath to miss out on De Jong.
Why might Barcelona be happy to lose such a player? Well, missing out on a fee in the region of €65/£56 million after enduring such financial dire straits is one reason.
Barcelona were €1 billion in debt when Lionel Messi left on a free for Paris Saint-Germain last summer, and even though "financial levers" such as the partial sales of marketing and TV rights have been agreed in principle, they still need to sell players to balance the books.
Barca also have other players who like to dictate play, such as Sergio Busquets and Gavi, so De Jong's biggest value to them might indeed be the transfer fee he can generate rather than his skill-set on the field of play - especially with a €50m deal for goal-fiend Robert Lewandowski in the offing.
If De Jong stays put, Man Utd and Barcelona will both lose.