Barcelona are reportedly split over how to replace Sergio Busquets in their squad next season with Frenkie de Jong’s role at the club once again coming under scrutiny.
Reports suggest Barca president Joan Laporta is pushing for the club to sign Wolves midfielder and Portugal international Ruben Neves, as the club supremo shares a close relationship with his agent Jorge Mendes. However, Barca’s sporting directorate are at odds with this stance – and there is a belief that De Jong can fulfil the Busquets role in the midfield.
De Jong has no intention of leaving Barca despite being the club’s highest earner and starting just half of their matches across all competitions this season. 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.
De Jong has increasingly been at odds with the club's board including criticising them for leaking his contract details this summer and he is set to refuse Barca’s latest attempt to persuade the midfielder to reduce his salary.
As reported last month 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.
Busquets is set to leave Barcelona when his contract at the club expires at the end of the season, with Inter Miami believed to have a deal in place to sign the veteran midfielder. A report in Marca has highlighted Barca’s internal division over signing Neves as a replacement for Busquets – with others believing De Jong can fill that holding midfield role.
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Earlier this week, Barca boss Xavi ruled out any exits from the Camp Nou first-team squad in January, telling the press: "I don't want Memphis [Depay] or any other player to leave in January. I think it's going be a quiet window for us."
United boss Erik 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."