Explained: Manchester United’s move for Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong

Explained: Manchester United’s move for Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong

Manchester United are engaged in a game of poker with Barcelona over Frenkie de Jong, and a new layer of intrigue emerged following the Catalan club’s extraordinary general assembly on Thursday evening.

Barcelona’s socios overwhelmingly voted through two board proposals that will see the club give away a percentage of future earnings on merchandise and television revenue in exchange for an expected €700 million in funding from financial institutions. Eduard Romeu, Barcelona’s economic vice president, said the twin deals would take away the imperative for his club to sell players before the key date of June 30, with De Jong the primary candidate.

Romeu said: “In our budget and the numbers we have to close by June 30, there is no expected income from player sales. Any decision we take in that regard will follow technical criteria, not economical.”

The end of this month is important because that is when Spanish clubs close their accounts, and La Liga’s system to calculate salary caps for the following season takes its cue. Before this point, it had been expected that Barcelona’s losses of around £125 million would ramp up pressure to sell De Jong — who is among the highest earners at the Nou Camp — by that cut-off to free up salary elsewhere. Barcelona now insist that deadline is irrelevant.

Whether that is a bluff, time will tell. United, for the moment, are keeping their chips back. The move for De Jong is being led by football director John Murtough and talks have been held over a fee. Semantics dictate whether an official bid has gone in but, whatever the interpretation, sources say there is a gap at present of between €10 million to €15 million in guaranteed money from United’s proposal to Barcelona’s demands. (It is perhaps an awkward look that dividends of about £11 million are set to go to shareholders on June 24.)

United feel Barcelona still have cashflow issues that necessitate De Jong’s sale and there are no other buyers out there. This is a view shared by several recruitment leads at other clubs who consider themselves familiar with Barcelona’s predicament. Barcelona are so far steadfast in holding out for their desired price, regarded as €80 million, close to what they paid Ajax for the midfielder in 2019. Owner Joel Glazer and chief executive Richard Arnold are not involved in negotiations but have are being kept abreast of updates and have final sign-off.

Well-placed sources believe the move will ultimately happen. Ten Hag has made De Jong his primary objective, the 25-year-old is open to reuniting with his former Ajax manager, and wages are not expected to be an issue. Sadio Mane’s transfer to Bayern Munich could start the dominoes falling if that triggers Robert Lewandowski to join Barcelona, who want to make six signings this summer to rejuvenate the squad. Another aspect is that Xavi has publicly said he wants to keep De Jong from a football perspective.

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