Almost a month has passed since Manchester United were reportedly closing in on the signing of
Frenkie de Jong. The club had agreed a fee with Barcelona and were hoping to complete the deal
before a self-imposed deadline of June 30. That would allow De Jong to join his new team-mates on
the club’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, and it would give Erik ten Hag the chance to
integrate his former charge for weeks before the start of the new Premier League campaign.
The deadline came and went. It looks like the end of July will also pass without De Jong relocating to
the northwest of England. The 25-year-old is currently involved in a pre-season tour, but he is in the
United States with Barcelona rather than down under with United. The Premier League season is
now less than a fortnight away and Ten Hag’s top transfer target appears to be no closer to making
the switch than he was a month ago.
That is not due to resistance from Barcelona. Amid a summer of heavy spending, the La Liga giants
need to shift some of the fringe members of their squad in order to balance the books. De Jong is
perhaps the only player they are willing to let go who would also command a sizable transfer fee. It
was thus not too difficult for the two clubs to agree on a price tag of £55m.
The sticking point lies with De Jong himself – and that is why United should be concerned. Firstly, the
former Ajax man is owed £17m in deferred salary payments by Barcelona. He is wary of leaving the
club before the issue is settled. Understandably, De Jong is looking for some sort of guarantee that
he will receive the money that is rightfully his.
More worrying for United is the consistent message coming out of the player’s camp. De Jong, we
have been consistently told in recent weeks, is not interested in joining United.
That is partly because he does not want to give up on Barcelona after just three years. But there is a
specific United element to this too. De Jong is said to be unconvinced by the way the club is run –
and their bumbling pursuit of the midfielder does little to dispel the notion that United remain miles
behind the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City off the pitch. So while De Jong would consider a
move to Bayern Munich or even Chelsea, he is not particularly attracted to the prospect of running
out at Old Trafford next season.
What should United do now? The transfer window does not close until September 1 and issues like
the one involving De Jong’s wages tend to be resolved the closer we get to deadline day. There is an
argument that United should continue to be patient and wait for as long as it takes to close the deal.
But perhaps it would be wiser for the Red Devils to walk away now and turn their attention to other
targets. Despite the addition of Christian Eriksen, United’s midfield still needs strengthening. It was
the team’s weak point last term and Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have left since then. The new
season is just around the corner and United cannot afford to keep all their eggs in the De Jong
They should also focus their attention on players who actually want to join them. Signing those who
are not all-in on the club is a recipe for disaster. Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola would not do it.
United should listen to what De Jong is telling them and recalibrate their transfer radar accordingly.