Barcelona have held a transfer meeting with the agent of Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan – throwing fresh doubt on the future of Frenkie de Jong, who has been praised by Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag.
Manchester United had an initial transfer fee of £56.2million agreed with Barca last summer to sign the Dutch midfield maestro, but the player refused a move. Despite the club agreeing to his departure and his relationship with United boss Ten Hag the 25-year-old was intent on staying at the Camp Nou.
De Jong has increasingly been at odds with the club's board this season including criticising them for leaking his contract details last summer and he is set to refuse Barca’s latest attempt to persuade the midfielder to reduce his salary.
As reported in December by Sport, the club have made a fresh approach to the former Ajax ace to request once again that he reduces his salary – but that attempt is unlikely to be successful. Barcelona need to reduce their current salary outgoings of €600million to €400m for next season, in order to register new players and any new contracts.
United boss Ten Hag – who retains a close relationship with De Jong, whom he coached at Ajax – has continued to talk up the possibility of the club signing players in the next transfer windows: "I think we always have to do better in the organisation of the club. So we will always look for better and if there are opportunities, we will strike."
Ten Hag has now said of De Jong, whom he will face in the Europa League knockout stage: “In 2019, there was a lot of fascination with that Ajax team. Frenkie brought a lot of that fascination and he has developed over the following years in Spain.
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“He's a fantastic player and has become even better. Playing out from the back, he always has time. It was a pleasure working with him. He would strengthen any squad in the world. He's got unique quality.”
As outlined by reports in Spain, Barca have now held a meeting with Ilhan Gundogan, the uncle and representative of the City midfielder. The German international is said to be a key transfer target for the Catalan club this summer – as they seek to replace the long-serving Sergio Busquets, who is out of contract this summer.
Gundogan has spent the past seven seasons at City and his uncle is said to have held a meeting with a Barca delegation including sporting director Mateu Alemany, Jordi Cruyff, Enric Masip and Franc Carb this week.
The continued prominence of Pedri and Gavi means that De Jong is unlikely to be a guaranteed starter, particularly with the presence of Franck Kessie and emergence of Pablo Torre. The potential arrival of Gundogan would likely once again throw the Dutchman’s long-term future at the club into doubt.
After missing out on a move for De Jong, United moved to sign Casemiro from Real Madrid having also added central midfielder Christian Eriksen. The club have also added Marcel Sabitzer on loan from Bayern Munich until the end of the campaign.