The Athletic claims there are “reasons to think” that Chelsea have joined Man United in the race to sign Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong.
The gifted midfielder is known to be United boss Erik ten Hag’s top transfer target this summer and a deal reported to be €65 million plus €20 million in bonuses was said to be broadly agreed.
Delays to completing the deal seem to have centred around €17 million in back pay owed to the player by Barça because he deferred his salary during the Covid crisis.
The Spanish media have been pushing the story this week that this has allowed Chelsea to enter the fray, although in their Talk of the Devils podcast this week, Athletic reporters seemed skeptical as to whether it was true.
Many in the UK believed Chelsea’s name was being used by the Catalans to get United to improve their offer.
However, the same outlet now admits that there could be some truth to the rumour.
“Chelsea owner Todd Boehly visited Catalonia last Thursday and had dinner at Via Veneto restaurant with Barcelona executives including Laporta, director of sport Mateu Alemany and sporting advisor Jordi Cruyff,” reporter Pol Ballus writes.
“Reports claim Chelsea defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso were the hottest names on the table. There are reasons to think De Jong could have been discussed too.”
De Jong is still reluctant to leave but Barça face the prospect of having to pay him €88 million by the end of his contract, at a time when their wage bill needs to be slashed by almost 50%.
President Joan Laporta has said the Dutchman can stay but he would have to take a massive pay cut. Ballus still believes that a sale is the only logical way forward.
“The closest meeting point for both sides would be to agree to a transfer. Multiple club sources are convinced a move will happen.
“’De Jong is basically the only sale Barca can close with a certain value,’ one close source said.”
If Chelsea’s interest really is genuine, this could mean the future will be decided by where the 25 year old would prefer to play.
It has been reported that in this case, his preference would be to join the Dutch revolution at United, even though Chelsea can offer Champions League football this season.
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