Andy Mitten has often likened Manchester United’s pursuit of Frenkie de Jong to that of Cesc Fabregas in David Moyes’ first window in charge.
In that instance Fabregas also had a preference to stay at Barcelona, although with the club looking to part ways, the Spanish playmaker assured Moyes that he would move to the Red Devils if the Catalan giants opted not to start him in their opening game of the season against Levante.
He started, put in a man-of-the-match performance, and United ended up with Marouane Fellaini.
On August 13th, Barcelona’s curtain raiser against Rayo Vallecano could be seen as a similarly pivotal moment for De Jong.
But it is hard to see that match having a similar outcome this time around, as far as De Jong is concerned.
Barcelona’s preseason has seen the Dutchman start in zero games, play zero minutes in midfield, and replaced in his ‘new position’ by the incoming Jules Kounde.
He is no longer seen by his manager as a midfield dynamo or as an heir to Sergio Busquets.
Instead, Gerard Pique, Ronald Araujo, Eric Garcia and the aforementioned Kounde are ahead of him in a fight for two slots at centre back.
And with Barca still unable to register any of their new signings for La Liga while De Jong’s salary remains on the books, it is highly unlikely he will even be in the matchday squad.
Should that transpire, it will be hard for the former Ajax man to make a case for staying in Spain, no matter how much he enjoys the city.
He has reportedly been offered a compromise on his salary deferral agreement and, should agreeable terms be met, a move will surely follow, especially if he is absent for the season opener.
With United set to play Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, fans have another reason to keep an eye on the Madrid-based club.
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