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Xavi says he wants Frenkie de Jong to be a centre back

Bizarre comments from Barcelona coach add to speculation around Dutchman's future

by Red Billy

Barcelona head coach Xavi has made a shocking statement about Frenkie de Jong’s expected future should he stay at Barcelona.

Barça want to sell the midfielder and have agreed terms with Manchester United over a €75 million deal, but the player has so far refused to leave.

The Blaugrana owe De Jong €17 million in back pay and it is believed there is a standoff in which he will not leave the club until it is paid, and in which the club can’t afford to, or are unwilling to, pay it.

There was some doubt as to whether De Jong would travel with the team on their pre-season tour of the USA, with president Joan Laporta insisting it was up to Xavi whether to take him or not.

The Dutchman did board the plane, but then was not selected for the opening match of the tour against Inter Miami.

When he came on as substitute in the second half, he was played as a centre back.

The same occurred today as Barça beat Real Madrid 1-0 in El Classico, making this seem more of a deliberate redeployment than a stopgap, and after the match Xavi was asked about De Jong’s future.

“I have spoken with him. I value him very much,” the coach responded.

“For me he is a fundamental footballer, but then there is the financial situation and fair play.

“He can give us a lot as centre back. I like him in that position.”

The comments are quite astounding given the current situation. Xavi is suggesting he intends to reinvent one of the world’s best midfielders as a centre back.

Especially when considering that the club have two first choice centre backs and are currently trying to sign another in Jules Koundé, the comment could be interpreted as a threat to De Jong that he will not be allowed to play in midfield should he stay at the Camp Nou.

This, in turn, would suggest that the club is still doing its best to try to push the player out by fair means or foul.

It seems unlikely that such veiled threats will have any impact on the player if his motive in hanging on is simply to be sure of receiving the money he is owed. However, if he genuinely was still hoping that there was a chance he could pick up where he left off as a regular starting midfielder, Xavi’s words could be the death knell for such aspirations.

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