Manchester United are engaged in a game of poker with Barcelona against Frenkie de Jong, and a new layer of intrigue emerged after the Catalan club’s extraordinary general meeting on Thursday night.
Barcelona socios have voted overwhelmingly on two board proposals that will see the club hand over a percentage of future revenue from merchandise and TV revenue in return for an expected €700m funding from the financial institutions. Eduard Romeu, Barcelona’s economic vice-president, said the paired deals would remove the imperative for his club to sell players before the key date of June 30, with De Jong as the lead candidate.
Romeu said: “In our budget and the figures that we have to close by June 30, there is no revenue expected from player sales. Any decision we make in this regard will follow technical and not economic criteria. . »
The end of this month is important because it is when Spanish clubs close their accounts, and La Liga’s system for calculating salary caps for the following season is inspired by this. Prior to this point, Barcelona’s losses of around £125million were expected to increase pressure to sell De Jong – who is among the highest earners at the Nou Camp – by this salary release deadline. somewhere else. Barcelona now insist the delay is irrelevant.
Whether it’s a bluff, time will tell. United, for now, are keeping their chips. De Jong’s move is being overseen by director of football John Murtough and talks have taken place for a fee. Semantics dictate whether an official offer has been tabled but, regardless of the interpretation, sources claim there is currently a gap between €10m and €15m in guaranteed money between United’s offer and Barcelona’s demands . (It is perhaps odd that dividends of around £11m are being paid to shareholders on June 24.)
United believe Barcelona still have cash flow problems which necessitate the sale of De Jong and there are no other buyers. It’s a view shared by several hiring managers at other clubs who consider themselves familiar with Barcelona’s predicament. So far, Barcelona are determined to keep their desired price, believed to be €80m, close to what they paid Ajax for the midfielder in 2019. Owner Joel Glazer and chief executive Richard Arnold are not involved in the negotiations but are kept informed. updates and have final approval.
Amid the stalemate, whispers started that Erik ten Hag was starting to get a little frustrated. He is said to understand United’s budget constraints – around £120million – and knows he would be able to afford some additional signings if Barcelona could be persuaded to take the lowest offer. But it’s also helpful to get a player through the door early so he and his teammates can mentally prepare, Ten Hag can plan with certainty and United can move on to other goals.
United no doubt believe they have the option to wait given that players are not due back until the week of June 27, those taking part in internationals are entitled to more time off depending on their final matches. De Jong played 90 minutes against Wales on Tuesday, his fourth appearance in 11 days, so hypothetically, if a deal had already been agreed, he would not be expected to report for training until United depart for their tour of pre-season in Thailand and Australia on July 8.
Well-placed sources believe the move will eventually happen. Ten Hag has made De Jong his main target, the 25-year-old is ready to reunite with his former Ajax manager, and wages shouldn’t be an issue. Sadio Mane’s transfer to Bayern Munich could bring down the dominoes if it tempts Robert Lewandowski to join Barcelona, who are keen to sign six signings this summer to rejuvenate the squad. Another aspect is that Xavi has publicly stated that he wants to keep De Jong from a football perspective.
There will come a time when United will have to make a call: deal or no deal. They believe there are other affordable midfielders available and will move on if Barcelona don’t move. Finding that right balance will be crucial to manager satisfaction in his first transfer window.
Sources claim United made a vetting call to Brighton over Yves Bissouma this week ahead of his move to Tottenham Hotspur. But Bissouma was not seen as a serious candidate to pursue at this stage. De Jong is the box-to-box midfielder Ten Hag wants. Earlier this week, Athleticism reported that United have made an offer to sign Christian Eriksen, who is available on a free transfer. Tottenham and Brentford have also expressed interest in re-signing the Denmark international.
There has been some circumspection about De Jong’s performance for Barcelona and his ability to adapt to the Premier League, with Donny van de Beek’s struggles being a case study at Old Trafford. But coaches familiar with De Jong’s style say Barcelona haven’t deployed him to the best of his abilities and he could thrive at United under Ten Hag.
De Jong tore Belgium apart in the Netherlands’ 4-1 Nations League win on June 3 and a member of the Belgium outfit was so impressed he said Athleticism that De Jong will be both the Premier League signing of the summer, should he end up at United, and that he will also surprise people with his ability to dribble the ball in midfield and operate more high on the ground.
United could increase their budget by moving players. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Anthony Martial are two of the players who might be able to claim a significant fee. But United are ignoring huge sales expectations.
Dean Henderson is set to leave for Nottingham Forest, but only on loan. There were no negotiations on an option or an obligation to buy. Tom Heaton is believed to be more than capable of becoming the No.2 but United could enter the market with Watford’s Daniel Bachmann under consideration at a cost of between £2m and £4m.
This will come after De Jong’s pursuit ends. United must hope this doesn’t turn into a saga.
(Other contributors: Adam Crafton and Pol Ballus; Photo: Perry Vd Leuvert/NESImages/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)