Barcelona may have to rely on selling commercial revenue streams and broadcasting rights to ease financial difficulties should Frenkie de Jong not join Manchester United.

That is the message from football financial expert Kieran Maguire, who outlined to Stats Perform the issues Barca face in meeting LaLiga financial fair play rulings.

The Blaugrana have already spent over €100million to bring in Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski, alongside free agents Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen, while renewing Ousmane Dembele's deal.

Barca's dealing have led to question marks from pundits given the club are reportedly €1.3billion in debut, with Bayern Munich boss Julian Nagelsmann pondering how they were able to sign Die Roten's prized asset Lewandowski.

Maguire explained Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has relied on two "economic levers", the first seeing the Catalan giants sell 10 per cent of their LaLiga broadcasting rights to investment firm Sixth Street.

The second method, Maguire said, will involve Barca selling up to 49 per cent of their commercial revenues "in a deal which could be worth a couple of hundred million euros".

Maguire suggested Barca would have up to €130m to spend from those two deals, but added they need De Jong – who has been linked with the Red Devils – to leave to allow the LaLiga giants to raise funds and register their new arrivals.

"They can sign players, but they can't register players, and that's the more important issue," he told Stats Perform. "What Barcelona have to be able to do is to reduce the level of their short-term debt under the LaLiga rules.

"Now, the way they're going to do that is to generate short-term income. First of all in respect of their broadcasting rights, so they've been involved in a deal with Sixth Street from the US and I think they've sold 15 per cent of their broadcasting rights, covering around about the next 20 years.

"It's the equivalent of a payday loan, in which you take money now which comes out of your future revenue. And that's being referred to by Laporta as one of the two economic levers that they have. The other way that they're going to do that is in respect of some of their commercial revenues.

"I think they're willing to give up to 49 per cent of those, again in a deal which could be worth a couple of hundred million euros. You put those two together and that will allow them to spend some money.

"I think now the first deal has gone through with Sixth Street, they should be able to register one player. They were relying on De Jong going in order to be able to register the others.

"If that's not going to work, then expect them to pull the other levers, perhaps quicker in order to generate the revenue that will allow them to register the remaining players."

Last week, United and Barcelona reportedly struck a deal for De Jong worth £63m (€75m), with a further £8.5m (€10m) in add-ons also possible.

But reports suggested the move for the Netherlands international is being held up by £17m (€20m) worth of deferred salary payments that Barca owes De Jong.

 

"The player is very much in the right here, the player signed a contract with an agreed amount of remuneration," Maguire added. "The club asked the player to make a sacrifice during COVID-19.

"If the club can afford to recruit Lewandowski and recruit Raphinha, and [Ferran] Torres, then those players will not be taking pay cuts.

"So why should De Jong be the fall guy in respect of this? You can understand the player being angry about this situation.

"Effectively, he's being treated as a disposable asset and asked to take a financial sacrifice at the same time."

Maguire insisted Barca's financial difficulties, the reason Lionel Messi had to join Paris Saint-Germain last August, are due to their own incompetency and not solely down the coronavirus pandemic.

"Barcelona have been run very poorly from a financial point of view for a long period," he continued. "They have relied on Messi to be their focus of attention until things started to deteriorate on the back of COVID.

"But COVID was not the only reason why Barcelona are in this problem – and other clubs aren't. So Barcelona are trying to emotionally blackmail some of their players by focusing on the Barcelona brands, its appealed to a fan base.

"And I think there will be resistance from players because they've acted in good faith. Whether they're worth the money they're being paid, that's not for me to decide.

"Nobody forced Barcelona to offer these players the wages that they are currently being paid. So it's up to Barcelona to honour the contracts and they don't appear to be willing to be honourable."

Manchester United face a "long road" before they can mount a Premier League title challenge but signing Frenkie de Jong would make a "huge difference", according to Jamie Carragher.

United have won all three of their pre-season contests under Erik ten Hag, including a 4-0 thrashing of Liverpool in their first outing under the Dutchman.

The Red Devils broke a number of unwanted records during their dire 2021-22 Premier League season, posting their lowest points tally (58) and worst defensive record (57 goals conceded) in the competition's history.

Despite United impressing during their tour of Asia and Australia, Ten Hag warned on Tuesday there was a "lot of work" remaining and Carragher echoed similar sentiments.

Asked by Sky Sports whether he feared United could rival his beloved Liverpool, Carragher said: "I wouldn't say [I'm] nervous. 

"I think there's a long road for United that they're on at the moment in terms of challenging for the title.

"I think the first thing when it comes to Ten Hag and the players they're bringing in will be, 'we need to get this club back in the Champions League, where it belongs'. That's where Manchester United should be.

"They're one of the biggest clubs in the world, never mind this country, so to not be in the Champions League just doesn't feel right, not when United are in the Europa League.

"So I think that's the first thing and I think once United do that, then it'll be looking at the title in the next couple of years.

"But it won't be easy to get back in the top four this season – not just for United but for any team who are normally in the top four.

"You'd expect [Manchester] City and Liverpool to do it because they're always going for the title, but you look at how strong Chelsea will be and the signings they're bringing in, Tottenham's work as well, Arsenal also.

"So I think competitively now in terms of getting in the top four, it's really tough, and it's proven that way for a lot of Manchester United managers with great CVs in the past.

"But there's no doubt this manager has a really good CV and they made a really good start in pre-season."

Having already added Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen to their squad, as well as agreeing a deal for versatile Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez, United have been strongly linked with a move for talented Barcelona midfielder De Jong.

The future of the Netherlands international remains uncertain after he was included in Barcelona's squad for a tour of the United States, and Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has repeatedly claimed the Catalan giants do not need to sell the 25-year-old.

Carragher believes De Jong would have a huge impact should he make the switch to Old Trafford.

"It'll be interesting if they get De Jong," he added. "I do think he's a top-class player and I think he would make a huge difference for them."

United's next pre-season outing sees them face Aston Villa in Perth on Saturday, before fixtures against Spanish duo Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano next week.

Frenkie de Jong reportedly has no interest in signing with Manchester United, instead preferring either Chelsea or Bayern Munich if he is to leave Barcelona.

De Jong has been at the centre of Barcelona's transfer period, with widespread belief that the club must sell the 25-year-old to balance their books.

The Netherlands international has racked up 140 club appearances for Barcelona in his three seasons since arriving from Ajax, and he is determined to have a say in where he spends the next few years of his prime.

 

TOP STORY – DE JONG PREFERS CHELSEA, BAYERN OVER OLD TRAFFORD MOVE

In an explosive report from Spanish publication Sport, it says De Jong "does not like the city of Manchester or the functioning of United", with claims he feels the club has displayed "erratic behaviour" in recent years.

It also makes clear that he values Champions League football greatly at this point in his career, and any move away from the Spanish giants would need to land him at a club on equal footing.

According to the report, Chelsea are waiting for De Jong to officially decline United's approach before presenting a formal offer, but there is interest. 

Ultimately, he would prefer to stay at Barcelona, and if the club cannot clear up the issue of his significant unpaid wages, he may get his way.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea have set their sights on 20-year-old RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol, with The Sun declaring him the Blues' top target to replace Cesar Azpilicueta.

– Sky Sports Germany is reporting Borussia Dortmund are weighing up the potential signing of 35-year-old Luis Suarez in the wake of news that Sebastien Haller will be out indefinitely after the discovery of a testicular tumour.

West Ham remain engaged with Chelsea as they try to pry away 20-year-old Albanian striker Armando Broja, who Thomas Tuchel is said to be a fan of.

– With fullback Marc Cucurella likely heading to Manchester City, Brighton are considering a loan move for Arsenal's Nuno Tavares to plug the hole, according to O Jogo.

– The Guardian claims Jesse Lingard is in advanced talks to join Nottingham Forest, with the Daily Mail adding they have offered £200,000 to try and fend off interest from West Ham.

Amid growing speculation in recent months, Christophe Galtier and Luis Campos' arrivals at Paris Saint-Germain this off-season could mean Neymar's departure.

The Brazilian joined PSG in 2017 for what remains a world-record €222 million fee from Barcelona, but there has been no European silverware to complement nine Ligue 1 titles over the past decade.

Lionel Messi linked up alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last term but the team's compatibility came under examination in their dramatic Champions League exit, despite winning Ligue 1 comfortably.

TOP STORY – PSG PROPOSED NEYMAR SWAP WITH MAN CITY

PSG proposed an exchange with Manchester City which would have seen Neymar and Bernardo Silva swap clubs earlier this off-season, Le Parisien claims.

The report alleges that the English champions declined the deal, as they are unwilling to let the Portuguese midfielder go.

Relations between Neymar, who is contracted until 2017, and PSG have been slightly testy recently.

Bernardo was linked with a switch to Barcelona earlier in the off-season, having reportedly been eager to leave the club last year.

 

ROUND-UP

– Chelsea are concerned that target Presnel Kimpembe will decline their approach, the Standard claims. The Blues are in talks with PSG over a £50m deal for Kimpembe.

– The Sun reports that Chelsea have also entered the race to sign Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona, amid the latter's talks with Manchester United.

– Calciomercato claims that Tottenham have shown an interest in Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo although they will need to offload players to afford him.

– Spurs are not interested in signing Jesse Lingard according to Fabrizio Romano, meanwhile. Lingard, who left Manchester United recently at the conclusion of his contract, is hoping to decide on his future this week, with West Ham United believed to be his likely destination, while Nottingham Forest are also interested.

– Fabrizio Romano also claims that there is still no agreement between PSG and Inter on a deal for Martin Skriniar. Inter are not willing to sell the Slovakia international for PSG's last bid of €50m.

– Arsenal and Manchester City have agreed to a £32m deal for Ukraine international Oleksandr Zinchenko, reports Sky Sports.

– Football Insider reports that Liverpool have contacted Ajax about signing their Brazil international winger Antony.

Roma's project under Jose Mourinho may have approached a fork in the road, despite winning the Europa Conference League last season.

Confirming the departures of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pau Lopez, while bringing in Zeki Celik and Nemanja Matic, the squad is slowly starting to look more like Mourinho's.

They still need a creative talent to tie it all together, though, and it appears they might land one of the biggest free agents on the market.

 

TOP STORY – ROMA MAKE MOVE FOR DYBALA

Paulo Dybala could make a shock move to Roma, reportedly accepting their offer for him to join the club on a free transfer, according to Gianluca di Marzio.

After Inter backed out of the race to secure his signature following the expiry of his contract at Juventus, Napoli and Roma emerged as potential destinations for the 28-year-old.

The Argentina international has reportedly accepted Roma's offer, a three-year deal worth a gross salary of €6million a season plus bonuses.

 

ROUND-UP

Frenkie de Jong is opposed to joining Manchester United and has imposed on Barcelona his preference for Bayern Munich, Sport is reporting.

– The same publication is also reporting Tottenham are prepared to pay £14.4m (€17m) for Memphis Depay but the 28-year-old is also reluctant to leave Barcelona.

– Meanwhile, Barca have turned their attention to signing Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, per Marca.

Chelsea striker Armando Broja will join West Ham on a season-long loan, according to the Daily Mail.

The dissonance of winning the Premier League and another Champions League knockout exit has prompted more spending for Manchester City this close season.

While Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Kalvin Phillips make for high-profile signings, Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus have headed for the exit.

According to reports, however, City are not willing to let one particular player go despite interest from abroad.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY TO FIGHT FOR BERNARDO SILVA

Manchester City have no intention of selling Bernardo Silva to Barcelona this window, despite reports in Spain suggesting otherwise.

Pep Guardiola was prepared to let the talented midfielder move to Spain last year for personal reasons, but Barcelona failed to come up with the necessary funds to make a deal happen.

In the meantime, the Portugal international has become a pivotal piece in City's midfield, with Guardiola now viewing him as an important part of his plan's for this upcoming season.

Despite suggestions from Spain that City have given Silva's agent Jorge Mendes the clearance to finalise a deal, the Premier League champions are reportedly looking to keep their star.

 

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, City appear set to sell Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal for £30million, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Chelsea will make a move for Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde after failing to secure Nathan Ake's signature, per The Times

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has informed the club's hierarchy to persist for Frenkie de Jong's signature, even if he has not joined them by the start of the Premier League season, The Guardian is reporting.

Juventus are in contact with Atletico Madrid to bring back Alvaro Morata after his two-year loan spell at the club ended at the end of last season, Calciomercato reports.

Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong was named in Barcelona's squad for their pre-season tour of the United States as Xavi's players prepared to depart on Saturday.

New signings Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Raphinha were also included by head coach Xavi, whose side will play four matches as they step up preparations for the LaLiga campaign.

The Blaugrana will play Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus and New York Red Bulls on their jaunt to America, where De Jong is also set to feature despite question marks over his future.

United and Barcelona reportedly agreed a deal worth £63million (€75million) for the Netherlands international earlier this week, with a further £8.5million (€10million) in add-ons.

However, the midfielder, who would link up with former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford, is widely reported to be eager to remain at Camp Nou.

Despite a busy transfer window, Barcelona are reportedly unable to register their signings as they contend with financial fair play regulations, and it had been suggested the LaLiga club must cash in on assets to ease those issues.

President Joan Laporta appeared to reject that theory on Friday when he insisted the club do not need to sell De Jong.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has insisted the Blaugrana do not need to sell Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong to ease their financial problems.

Xavi's side announced a two-year extension for Ousmane Dembele on Thursday, having already signed Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie.

Raphinha became the next signing of the transfer window for Barca on Friday, joining from Leeds United in a deal reportedly worth up to €67million (£56.6m).

It has also been reported that Barca will push ahead with their attempts to sign Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski over the coming days.

While Barca continue to bring in new faces, the Blaugrana are unable to register their signings as they battle financial fair play regulations.

It has been repeatedly suggested the LaLiga club must cash in on assets to ease those issues, with De Jong among the favourites to depart.

Earlier this week, United and Barcelona reportedly struck a deal worth £63m (€75m), with a further £8.5m (€10m) in add-ons also possible.

Yet De Jong apparently remains eager to stay at Camp Nou, and Laporta has now suggested there is actually no requirement on Barca's part to sell the midfielder.

"It's not true that we are forced to sell Frenkie de Jong, this is not correct," Laporta said as Raphinha was welcomed at a news conference.

"Frenkie's trip to the United States [on the pre-season tour] will be decided by Xavi."

 

Yet Barcelona director Mateu Alemany seemed to contradict Laporta's claims.

"Frenkie is a very important player and we count on him. But we know La Liga's Fair Play tells us to sell player," Alemany said shortly after Laporta at the same media conference.

"I can't say more [on Frenkie deal and Man Utd]."

Ten Hag will hope to partner De Jong with Christian Eriksen in midfield after United confirmed the signing of the Denmark international on a three-year deal on Friday.

Barcelona's off-season has the potential to become even more complicated than what it already is.

Trying to balance their ambition with the economic realities of their situation is creating a tricky environment with the players to have departed and are still at the club this off-season.

According to reports, one player whose departure can ease the financial burden Barcelona have placed on themselves does not want to leave.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA INFORM DE JONG OF MANCHESTER UNITED MOVE

Frenkie de Jong has reportedly been told by Barcelona they want him to leave for Manchester United, according to The Athletic.

The Blaugrana are trying to convince De Jong that while they believe he is a talented footballer, they must sell him in order to balance their excessive wage bill.

The clubs have reportedly agreed on a guaranteed transfer fee of £63million (€75m) but the 25-year-old has no apparent desire to leave club, given Barcelona still owe him a deferred salary payment.

Meanwhile, the arrivals of Raphinha and Franck Kessie this off-season complicate the club's pitch of De Jong's transfer being economically necessary, as opposed to the sale being a purely sporting decision.

 

ROUND-UP

– Juventus have approached Arsenal over signing Gabriel Magalhaes as they eye a potential replacement for Matthijs de Ligt, The Independent reports.

– Meanwhile, the Gunners are working on a deal to sign Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City, per The Athletic

– Leeds United are close to agreeing terms with PSG over 20-year-old striker Arnaud Kalimuendo, Sport is reporting.

– At the same time, PSG have been joined by West Ham in the race to sign Sassuolo striker Gianluca Scamacca, according to Fabrizio Romano.

 

Erik ten Hag is edging closer to getting his man, or so it seems.

While Tyrell Malacia signed last week and deals for Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez seem close to going through, it is clear that Manchester United's priority transfer target has been Frenkie de Jong.

A star of Ten Hag's Ajax team, De Jong was tipped to help take Barcelona's midfield into the post-Xavi and Andres Iniesta era when he switched Amsterdam for Catalonia in 2019.

Yet, three years on, United have reportedly agreed a fee in the region of £63million (€75m) with Barcelona for the Netherlands international, with a further £8.5m (€10m) in add-ons also possible.

There is one small matter that needs to be resolved, though: De Jong needs convincing to make the switch from Barcelona to Manchester.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta told reporters on July 2 that De Jong had indicated he wished to stay at the club, but then suggested that if the Dutchman were to get his wish, he would have to take a wage cut.

That Laporta believes he would have to negotiate a salary decrease with a player who signed a lucrative contract only three years ago illustrates where Barca have gone wrong, and just why it is hard to fairly judge De Jong's time at Camp Nou, in which he has worked under four coaches – Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien, Ronald Koeman and Xavi.

The latter was keen to keep hold of the midfielder, but with Barca having signed Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen on free transfers and agreed a deal with Leeds United for Raphinha – not to mention handing Ousmane Dembele a new deal – a big sale is apparently required.

While there is still potential for this deal to fall through, should De Jong stick to his guns, it does seem increasingly likely he will be lining up at Old Trafford next season. So, just what will he bring that United need?

Has he lived up to the hype?

De Jong came into a Barca team that had slumped to a humbling Champions League semi-final defeat to Liverpool and were reeling from that implosion.

Valverde's team let a 3-0 aggregate lead slip in that tie, and truly the coach never recovered. Yet Barca splashed out an initial €75m to add stardust to their midfield and back the coach.

On paper, De Jong is the ideal Barca player, the embodiment of total football; an elegant runner, skilful in possession and a brilliant passer, while he is versatile enough to play in any midfield role or even in the centre of defence.

Over the course of his three seasons at Camp Nou, only Sergio Busquets (144) has made more appearances than his 140, so fitting De Jong into the side has not been an issue, while his creativity has certainly come to the fore, with his 149 chances created ranking behind just Lionel Messi (233) and Jordi Alba (207).

Last season, he created 40 chances in 32 LaLiga games.

 

He ranks fifth for assists (15) in the last three seasons, though it should be noted that both Messi and Antoine Griezmann, who are ahead of him in that metric, left the club in 2021.

De Jong's 10,158 touches puts him third at Barca for the same period, with his 645 duels won likewise third, with only Messi (800) and Busquets (814) winning more.

Under Ten Hag, De Jong might well be employed as a deep-lying playmaker as he was often utilised for Ajax. At Barca, Busquets has remained the midfield metronome, topping the charts for passes attempted (10,799) and completed (9,676), though De Jong does boast a better accuracy than the Blaugrana stalwart (91.8 to 89.6).

But for all his quality, De Jong has been unable to transform Barca's midfield, with Pedri and Gavi the new kids on the block. It is that duo that have seemingly grasped the initiative more, with Busquets still trusted by his former team-mate Xavi.

A clear improvement...

De Jong might not have been able to become the superstar many forecast at Barca, but at 25, he has plenty in the tank and, in truth, strolls into United's midfield.

It has been an area of weakness for several seasons, despite the huge investment in Paul Pogba, Fred and Bruno Fernandes.

While Fernandes has, of course, proved a huge success in England, Pogba only managed flashes of brilliance across his six-year second spell at Old Trafford and has now left on a free, while neither Fred nor Scott McTominay seem natural fits for Ten Hag's possession-based, fluid system.

De Jong fits that bill with aplomb and is a huge step-up on what United have in that area.

With Eriksen's impending arrival set to supplement Fernandes as a creator, De Jong could take up the mantle as United's midfield general from a deeper position, whether playing in front of the defence in a 4-3-3, or as part of a double-pivot in a 4-2-3-1 shape, as was employed in this week's 4-0 friendly win over Liverpool.

 

Last season alone, De Jong completed more passes – 2,160 – than any United midfielder, with only Fernandes (1,849) getting close. He also proved consistently available, playing 47 times, 20 more than Pogba, who he is effectively replacing.

Perhaps surprisingly, only Fred (372) and Fernandes (841), of United midfielders, lost possession more times, excluding hoofs, than De Jong (359) last term.

However, De Jong is adept at winning the ball back, having made 226 recoveries, and the fact he did lose possession so much appears to be largely due to him attempting so many more passes than his United counterparts.

De Jong's dribbling ability adds another dimension to United's attack, with his prowess at carrying the ball upfield a useful tool while in transition. His dribble success rate of 77.4 per cent is better than any of United's regular midfielders from last season, bar Matic, who only attempted 27 dribbles. Opta data shows De Jong made 279 progressive ball carries in LaLiga last season. In comparison, Fred managed 91 in the Premier League, with McTominay mustering 182 and Pogba tallying 125.

 

It is no surprise, then, that Ten Hag sees De Jong as a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Getting this deal done and over the line would be a statement of intent, and should provide an ideal platform for United to be shaped in their new manager's image.

Even if doubts remain further up the field, with uncertainty surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo's future, United's midfield has been in need of a major revamp – De Jong provides just that.

Chelsea have reportedly turned their attention to Bayern Munich winger and Germany international Serge Gnabry.

The decision was made to pivot away from Leeds United winger Raphinha after Barcelona seemingly moved into pole position for the Brazil international, with Chelsea then deciding to test the waters for former Arsenal forward Gnabry.

He is coming off his highest-scoring Bundesliga season, having netted 14 goals and contributed six assists in 34 league fixtures, scoring another three goals in the Champions League.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA GEAR UP FOR GNABRY BID

Despite it being widely reported that Chelsea have secured Raheem Sterling from Manchester City for fee of around £45million, the Blues are clearly not satisfied with their winger stocks. 

This was further fuelled by reports the club tried to include Christian Pulisic or Hakim Ziyech along with cash in a deal for Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, with Ziyech now appearing likely to land a move to Milan.

The Daily Mail claims Chelsea have enquired about Gnabry, 26, who debuted with Arsenal as a 17-year-old in 2012, but his time at the Gunners fizzled out with injuries before a loan move to West Brom, resulting in Werder Bremen scooping him up in a bargain £5m move.

He scored 11 goals in his first season in the Bundesliga to earn a move to Bayern, where he has tallied 171 games and 63 goals across four Bundesliga campaigns, winning four consecutive league titles.

ROUND-UP

– The Mirror is reporting that Barcelona's top priority is to sell Frenkie de Jong to fund their move for Leeds' Raphinha, while the Manchester Evening News claims top Manchester United officials are in Spain ironing out the details for the Dutch international's switch to Old Trafford.

– TalkSPORT claims that if United's chase of De Jong falls through, they are prepared to target Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves or Leicester City's Youri Tielemans.

Wolves have rejected an offer worth over £20m from Everton for 22-year-old midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White, according to The Telegraph.

– According to the Irish Independent, 21-year-old Nathan Collins will become the most expensive Irish player ever when he completes his £20.3m move from Burnley to Wolves this week.

– Fabrizio Romano is reporting that Ousmane Dembele has decided to stay on at Barcelona, shunning interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich as a consequence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine plunged Chelsea into uncertainty earlier this year, but an ownership change has seen a degree of stability return.

Despite the departures of Romelu Lukaku, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen this off-season, Todd Boehly's consortium has allowed Chelsea to resume with their preparations for the new season.

And it appears they are close to clinching their first signing of the new era, with a transfer for one of the Premier League's best attackers seemingly imminent.

 

TOP STORY – RAHEEM STERLING SET FOR CHELSEA

Chelsea have reached a deal with Manchester City to sign Raheem Sterling, according to David Ornstein of the Athletic.

The 27-year-old is set to sign a contract until 2027 with the option of an extra season, signalling the first major signing under new ownership.

Starting his senior career with Liverpool, Sterling moved to City in 2015, scoring 131 times in 339 appearances for them in all competitions.

The England international's status under Pep Guardiola became less secure in the past season however, with Phil Foden and Jack Grealish seeing increased time on the left wing.
 

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, Barcelona have matched Chelsea's offer of €70.1million (£60m) plus add-ons for Leeds United's Raphinha, Goal is reporting.

– Frenkie de Jong is hoping to remain at Barcelona and will reject an approach from Manchester United, per Sport.

– Bayern Munich have met with the representatives of Matthijs de Ligt, but Juventus are yet to receive an opening bid, according to Fabrizio Romano.

– Brighton and Hove Albion are in talks with Marc Cucurella over an improved deal amid interest from Manchester City, the Athletic reports.

Before the latest Cristiano Ronaldo transfer plea emerged last weekend, the conversation around Manchester United in this window focused primarily on their incoming business and the club's transfer policy.

A year ago, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United looked to be building a young, exciting team, only to be distracted by the pull of nostalgia and Ronaldo.

The end result was United's worst ever Premier League points return, with Solskjaer lasting only until November and a number of the side's promising talents – including big-money buy Jadon Sancho – enduring difficult campaigns. All the while, Ronaldo tallied more than 20 club goals for a 16th consecutive season.

Rushed through amid rival interest from neighbours Manchester City, Ronaldo's clearly was not a considered transfer, and less than 12 months on it could not be deemed a success, despite the individual displays that have reportedly attracted the attention of Chelsea among others.

There appears to have been a great deal more thought put into United's movement this year – not that their new approach has escaped criticism.

Ten Hag's total control

There is a clear theme running through United's reported shopping list in their first transfer window under ex-Ajax coach Erik ten Hag:

Ajax defender Jurrien Timber, Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez, Feyenoord defender Tyrell Malacia, who was of interest to Ten Hag at Ajax, former Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, former Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen, who trained with Ajax again last season, and Ajax winger Antony.

It is only natural to wonder how many of these players would have been targeted had Solskjaer still been in charge, or Ralf Rangnick, or even, say, Mauricio Pochettino.

United, it seems, have granted Ten Hag – one of the few remaining managers in a world of head coaches – complete control.

Of course, this is nothing new at Old Trafford, where David Moyes was allowed to bring along Marouane Fellaini from Everton, Louis van Gaal to recruit Netherlands pair Daley Blind and Memphis Depay, and Jose Mourinho to reunite with Chelsea's Nemanja Matic – who has now joined him again at Roma.

In each case, the absence of a sporting director and an overarching plan was scrutinised.

Now, even with John Murtough in as football director and Darren Fletcher as technical director, United have again changed strategy entirely to suit the wants of the first-team manager – still the most important figure at the club.

This latest development has unsurprisingly been highlighted by United's detractors, but is it really such an issue in this case?

Ajax a class above United

There are worse clubs to be pinching a team's worth of players from than Ajax, renowned for developing world-class talents across several generations.

As recently as three years ago, Ten Hag's Ajax faced Eriksen's Tottenham – also featuring Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez – in the Champions League semi-finals; United last reached the final four of Europe's elite club competition in 2011.

Ajax have been operating without the benefits of United's Premier League broadcasting contracts and, in 2022, have far more modest ambitions, yet they far outperformed the Red Devils in the Champions League across Ten Hag's tenure.

The Eredivisie side won 53.1 per cent of their 32 Champions League matches under their now former coach, with United winning just 38.5 per cent of their own 26 games over the same period. Ajax also scored more goals in the competition (2.0 per game versus 1.5) and conceded fewer (1.1 versus 1.3).

These Ajax players have set a far higher standard than that seen from recent United teams, so why would the club deny Ten Hag the opportunity to attempt to recreate that success at Old Trafford?

And whether by relying heavily on ex-Ajax men or otherwise, United's squad needed to undergo serious surgery to fit with Ten Hag's ideals – the ideals that attracted the 20-time English champions to him in the first place.

No room for Ronaldo?

If Ten Hag can effectively communicate his methods to players old and new, expect United to look very different this season – both with and without the ball.

Only Bayern Munich and Liverpool averaged a greater share of possession than Ajax (61.6 per cent) in the Champions League last season, with United (53.8) back in 10th in this regard.

Martinez (80.3 passes per 90) and Timber (74.7) were Ajax's most prolific passers, helping Ten Hag's men to build from the back. While United's passing leaders were also centre-backs – Raphael Varane (57.9), Victor Lindelof (54.7) and Harry Maguire (51.7) – they trailed a long way behind.

Crucially, Timber (93.3 per cent) and Martinez (91.9) were also the top performing Ajax or United players in terms of passing accuracy. Red Devils captain Maguire's far inferior 87.5 per cent accuracy perhaps shows why Ten Hag has been so keen to recruit one of his former ball-playing defenders.

But Ajax do not dominate just because of how careful they are in possession; they are also hugely proactive off the ball.

Ajax employed the most aggressive press in terms of opposition passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA) in three of Ten Hag's four Champions League campaigns, ranking second behind Bayern Munich in 2020-21.

Indeed, Ten Hag's last season was Ajax's most effective in this regard. They allowed just 7.4 PPDA – Bayern (8.8) were next, with United (12.1) 15th – and started their possessions 48.7 metres upfield on average, 2.0m more advanced than second-placed Chelsea (United were 12th – 43.0m).

Ten Hag clearly feels he needs more energy in midfield (De Jong) and attack (Antony), which makes reports United still want to keep Ronaldo a little odd. He averaged 16.8 pressures per 90 across the 2021-22 Premier League season, by far the fewest of any United attacker – Edinson Cavani, for example, averaged 35.8.

Letting Ronaldo leave might mean acknowledging an almighty error, but it would also represent a huge show of faith in a coach for whose system the five-time Ballon d'Or winner evidently appears unsuited.

And such trust in Ten Hag would certainly seem to fall in line with the rest of United's activity in this window.

Chelsea are looking to swoop in and scoop up Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who has been Manchester United's primary midfield target since the appointment of new boss Erik ten Hag.

De Jong, 25, has 44 international caps for the Netherlands, and has spent the past three seasons with the Spanish giants.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been adamant the club does not want to part ways with the star they paid €75million for back in 2019, but the club's financial position may force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO STEAL UNITED TARGET WITH CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ALLURE

De Jong is reportedly been hesitant about a move to United due to the fact that they could not offer Champions League football, and that is where Chelsea will have their advantage in negotiations.

The Metro is reporting the Stamford Bridge club are preparing an offer that will include both players and cash, with €60million as well as Spanish duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso said to be on the table.

The elephant in the room regarding a De Jong move is that Barcelona reportedly owe the Dutchman £17m in deferred wages, and the Daily Mail claims he wants the balance fully paid before he signs off on any transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

United have been told they will need to pay £106m in order to secure the signings of Ajax duo Lisandro Martinez and Antony, according to the Daily Record.

– According to i Sport, Chelsea are working on a new contract extension for Reece James, despite three years still remaining on his current deal, in an effort to fend off interest from Manchester City and Real Madrid.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Wolves will send 19-year-old Fabio Silva on a season-long loan to Anderlecht after purchasing him for £35m two years ago.

– The Mirror claims Leeds United are preparing a club-record offer of £32m for 21-year-old Club Brugge midfielder Charles De Ketelaere, who already has eight senior international caps for Belgium.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, the likely departure of Raheem Sterling has put City in a position to offer Riyad Mahrez a contract extension.

Barcelona have no intention of selling Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United, according to club president Joan Laporta, although he admitted the club's perilous financial situation could create the "need" for a sale.

Meanwhile, Laporta labelled Cristiano Ronaldo's apparent desire to leave United "interesting" but would not be drawn on whether the Blaugrana would target the Portuguese legend.

De Jong, who starred in Erik ten Hag's Ajax side before moving to Barcelona in 2019, has been touted as United's top transfer target since the Dutchman was announced as the club's new boss in April.

While the midfielder expressed his desire to stay at Barcelona in May, the club's need to reduce their wage bill has led to suggestions a sale could still be possible.

Laporta said last week he would do "what is in my power" to keep De Jong but acknowledged the Netherlands international would need to agree to a salary adjustment to remain at Camp Nou.

The Blaugrana president repeated that stance at Wednesday's unveiling of new signing Franck Kessie, saying of De Jong: "He's a Barca player and if we don't have the need, we won't sell him. We don't want to sell him. 

"We know he has offers, but right now we're not selling this player."

 

While Ten Hag appears to see De Jong as the ideal candidate to be the fulcrum of his new United side, it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will remain at Old Trafford after widespread reports of his desire to leave for a Champions League club emerged last week. 

Ronaldo scored 24 goals in all competitions for United last season, but the club ended the season in sixth place with their lowest-ever Premier League points tally (58).

But Laporta refused to be drawn on whether Barcelona could make a remarkable move for the 37-year-old, who starred in four Champions League triumphs with their historic rivals Real Madrid.

"I had dinner on Monday with [Ronaldo's agent] Jorge Mendes and we talked about the market in general," he added.

"Cristiano? I'm not going to talk about the players who came out of the meeting, but it's always interesting to know how some names are on the market.

"I'm not going to talk about players in one way or another, it could be misunderstood. It doesn't contribute anything to the interests of Barca. We have to respect the players who have contracts with other teams."

 

Meanwhile, Barcelona's need to adjust their finances in order to strengthen Xavi's squad has led to uncertainty over the future of winger Ousmane Dembele, whose contract with the club expired last month.

Dembele made more assists (13) in all competitions than any other Barca player last season, and while Laporta is keen to keep the 2018 World Cup winner, says the 25-year-old is yet to respond to the club's offer.

"We are in a situation of uncertainty. Right now, we still can't sign [him]," he said.

"We are talking to players we are interested in so they can wait for us. Ousmane is not a Barca player, but we have made him an offer.

"He has not accepted our proposal, but he wants to continue talking. We will continue talking, at least for now. 

"Salary balance is necessary for the team to be competitive. All discussions are framed in this context. We're not in a hurry, although we're aware that we can't delay. Let no one expect us not to act with the utmost prudence".

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.