Manchester United have seen their hopes of securing the signing of Frenkie de Jong suffer something of a downturn amid a eyebrow-raising claims made about the player’s relationship with Erik ten Hag.
Ten Hag has locked on to his former Ajax pupil De Jong as his No 1 target of the summer window. But striking a deal has proved anything but easy for United with a catalogue of issues blocking their path. And with just over two weeks to go before the new season gets underway, United appear nowhere nearer his signing.
Indeed, the first hurdle that United had to overcome was striking a fee with Barcelona. That was ultimately agreed in the region of an initial £58m – with more to come in bonuses.
However, convincing De Jong to make the transfer has proven even more difficult. The issue for the midfielder surrounds a deferred wage payment he is still owed by Barcelona.
And while he is owed in the region of £14.4m (€17m), Barcelona are still doing all they can to move him on.
Nonetheless, De Jong is standing firm and, having gone on tour with them to the USA, does not look like his move is imminent.
Furthermore, the Spanish media has also played their part in throwing United off the scent. Listing 10 reasons why De Jong does not want to join United, they appear adamant that De Jong only sees a future at Barcelona.
United, though, continue to persist. And the presence of Ten Hag appears to be the one major factor in their favour.
Ten Hag instrumental in Frenkie De Jong development
The new United boss has always put a strong emphasis on youth development. And, making his breakthrough under him at Ajax, De Jong quickly established himself as one of the world’s elite midfield talents.
However, talk of Ten Hag’s strong relationship with De Jong may not appear to be as strong as suggested.
Under the headline ‘Frenkie de Jong staying at Barcelona wouldn’t be a surprise’, The Athletic suggest United hopes remain flimsy.
Furthermore, they have downplayed Ten Hag’s relationship with De Jong. Indeed, they state the pair do not share a ‘particularly special’ bond.
In addition – and much like Cristiano Ronaldo – the report claims a lack of Champions League football at United is also a major sticking point for De Jong.
Gary Neville in war of words
The saga is also threatening to turn ugly with two former players getting into a war of words.
Amid the millions he is owed in wages, Gary Neville has urged De Jong to take action against his club. Seeing them splash the cash on new signings, such as Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski, while still owing their current squad wages, does not sit well with the pundit.
“De Jong should consider legal action v Barcelona and all players should be behind him!” Neville wrote on Twitter.
“A club spending fortunes on new players whilst not paying the ones they have under contract their full money is immoral and a breach.
“FIFPRO should be all over bullying like this and stop it.”
However, former Barcelona player Marc Crosas claims Neville does not know what he is talking about.
Hitting back at the Manchester United legend, Crosas hit back in no uncertain terms.
De Jong is not going anywhere
Frenkie De Jong has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United for months but Barca president Joan Laporte has said he is not for sale.
“You have no idea what you [are] talking about. Barca spending fortunes on new players has nothing to do with salaries and salary cap.
“He has the right to leave, stay with the same contract, reduce it, or say NO to Man Utd. Maybe that’s what really hurts you and not Barca’s immorality.”
In a further tweet, Crosas added: “Nobody is ‘refusing to pay’. Barca is trying to renegotiate his contract the same way they did with Pique, Busquets, Ter Stegen, Jordi Alba… Nobody complained at the time.”
Ten Hag, meanwhile, is reportedly considering two alternatives if a move for De Jong ultimately fails. However, he’s learned that one of those could end up costing United even more than their propsed deal for De Jong.