Manchester United have opened talks with Barcelona regarding the purchase of Frenkie de Jong, with the Spanish club’s financial constraints meaning the sale of a midfielder valued at about €85m could be forced.
De Jong, who is reluctant to leave Barcelona, does not view United as a prime destination should he have to depart. Their lack of Champions League football next season is a major stumbling block to convincing the 25-year-old to join, particularly when there will be other interested clubs.
United’s manager, Erik ten Hag, coached De Jong for two seasons at Ajax that ended with the 2018-19 Eredivisie title and a run to the Champions League semi-finals. Ten Hag and John Murtough, United’s football director who is leading negotiations, will hope this previously successful working relationship can help persuade De Jong to sign should an agreement with Barcelona be reached.
United’s midfield has been a weakness in recent seasons and with Nemanja Matic having left and Paul Pogba’s departure confirmed on Wednesday, Ten Hag has only Fred and Scott McTominy as frontline players in the position.
Pogba signed from Juventus for a then British record £93.2m in 2016 and is leaving United on a free for the second time, having done so to join the Italian club in 2012. The Frenchman has rejected advances from Manchester City and may return to Juventus but is also wanted by Paris Saint-Germain.
United said: “Everyone at the club would like to congratulate Paul on his successful career, and thank him for his contributions to Manchester United. We wish him all the best for the next steps on a remarkable journey.”
Ten Hag is also intent on buying Jurrien Timber from Ajax, the defender potentially costing about €50m. The 20-year-old does currently consider United a club he would like to join. - Guardian