Frenkie de Jong’s comment in an interview that he would prefer to stay at Barcelona has made the headlines in the last 24 hours but it is unlikely to be the end of the story in terms of a transfer to Manchester United.
The Dutch midfielder is reportedly one of Erik ten Hag’s top targets. The pair worked together at Ajax in the highly entertaining and successful 2018/2019 campaign that saw the Amsterdam outfit reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.
De Jong played alongside another United star, Donny van de Beek, in that same side, making his transfer seem like an ideal option for the Red Devils, who are set to lose both Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic from their midfield roster this month.
Barcelona would seemingly be willing to part with the star if the price was right – reportedly around €75 million (£63.8m) – due to their ongoing financial woes.
However, in an interview with ESPN yesterday, De Jong appeared to close the door on the move, saying “I prefer to stay with Barcelona.”
“Barcelona is just my dream club. Also from a young age. I just said it too. I’ve never regretted my choice despite the fact that I had hoped for more in terms of prizes than I’ve achieved so far. But I have never regretted my choice.”
On the surface, this would appear to be De Jong making a clear decision. But then the 25 year old continues:
“What I’m saying, there is absolutely nothing of an agreement or anything official. At the moment there is no question of it at all.
“Not that I know of in any case. Or they must not have told me, but I don’t think so.”
This statement has a very different feel to it.
The history of major football transfers is littered with quotes from players saying they are happy at their current club and do not want to leave, only for them to sign for the pursuing club shortly after.
Players are mindful of not alienating the home fans by appearing to want out, in case the transfer doesn’t materialise. They can also say they don’t want to leave as a bargaining tool to try to get a better deal from the buying club.
The second part of the statement can only be taken as encouragement by United, who are reported to be prioritising the position in this summer’s window.