Manchester United are no longer likely to pursue a deal for Frenkie de Jong in 2023 after a report claimed Erik ten Hag is firmly latching on to another midfield target.
The Barcelona star was the subject of intense speculation over the summer with United pursuing him for several weeks. After spending an age agreeing a fee with Barcelona – eventually struck at an initial £67m – persuading the player to move proved an altogether impossible mission.
Their efforts ultimately counted for nothing, though, with the writing on the wall once a report came out listing 10 reasons why De Jong was opposed to the switch.
The ease at which United then later signed Casemiro – the entire deal wrapped up in a matter of days – led director of football John Murtough to come to a painful realisation about De Jong.
Despite seeing their summer hopes of a deal evaporate, Barcelona remain open to the possible sale of De Jong. The midfield star has been in and out of the Blaugrana side this season and the player remains a disposable commodity to the club.
As such, United are reportedly giving serious thought to a fresh approach in the January window.
However, the Daily Mirror now reports that this is not the case with De Jong. In fact, the paper claims Ten Hag has no intention of making a fresh move to try and lure him to Old Trafford and that the club are now actively pursuing another target instead.
And the player in question is Jude Bellingham, whom United have also had a long-standing interest in.
In fact, they tried to sign the teenager when it was clear a move away from boyhood club Birmingham was on the cards.
Forget Frenkie De Jong, United ready to go all out for Jude Bellingham
Indeed, back in summer 2020, it was Dortmund who won the race to snap him up for an initial £25m.
And the midfielder has not looked back since, improving season on season in his time there. Indeed, playing in a more advanced midfield role this season, Bellingham has nine goals and two assists from 18 appearances. At 19, he’s also worn the Borussia Dortmund captain’s armband.
Bellingham is a certainty to make England’s World Cup squad too. The same cannot be said, though, for this quintet who have suffered massive falls from grace.
As such, it’s little wonder to see a plethora of clubs all chasing his signature. Indeed, the likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City will all be keen should BVB give any indication they are willing to sell.
And with Dortmund looking for around £130m for the star, that only leaves a handful of clubs capable of financing such a deal.
United, of course, are one of those and it seems they are making funds available to launch a titanic bid.
Ten Hag has already spent well over £200m since taking charge at Old Trafford. However, 2023 promises to be even bigger for the Red Devils as the next phase of their redevelopment takes place.
Top of Ten Hag’s January targets are a new right-back and potentially a new goalkeeper.
But come the summer, a move for Bellingham is very much top of their agenda.
Dutch star reflects on summer scramble to sign him
Frenkie De Jong, meanwhile, appears to have no regrets at his decision to stay in Barcelona.
He lives a nice lifestyle in the city and remains part of Xavi Hernandez’s plans.
Admittedly, Barcelona did push to move him on and were very much willing to sell. De Jong, though, insists he always made his feelings clear from the outset.
“I was calm,” De Jong told Ziggo Sport. “I decided in May that I wanted to stay.
“My opinion never changed during that entire period.
“I stayed calm. But then you know the pressure would start to come… yes, from the newspapers, from the president, exactly. From everywhere actually. But I wanted to stay at Barca so it never baffled me.”