Chelsea have taken a major step forward in their bid to sign Frenkie de Jong as they near a £67.6million deal to sign the Barcelona midfielder.
The Netherlands international has been at the centre of the summer’s topsy turviest transfer saga, which could still have a distance to run, despite Chelsea having made a significant breakthrough.
De Jong has been coveted by Manchester United and his former manager at Ajax, Erik ten Hag, throughout the close season but has resolutely refused to countenance a move to Old Trafford.
United’s ongoing struggles and absence from the Champions League were major factors in De Jong’s decision to reject a move to Old Trafford and a reunion with Ten Hag, while he has resolutely maintained his desire to remain at Camp Nou.
Barcelona’s perilous financial situation, however, means they are desperately need to offload some of their highest earners, especially in light of their ambitious, risk-ridden summer recruitment drive which has seen them bring in the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha.
Despite their public insistence that they wish to keep De Jong, behind the scenes Barcelona have been making increasingly chaotic attempts to effectively force the Netherlands international out of the club.
The Catalan giants are even said to have warned De Jong that they wish to annul his current contract due to alleged criminality in the terms agreed in the contract he signed under a previous regime.
Barcelona, essentially, want De Jong to take a pay cut and the player is said to feel as though he is now the subject of a ‘smear campaign’ given he is unwilling to reduce his salary.
Despite the unsavory situation, De Jong’s priority is to remain at Barcelona where he is highly valued by the club’s manager Xavi Hernandez.
De Jong confirmed as much to Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in a recent phone conversation during which the American tycoon attempted to persuade the player to join Thomas Tuchel’s rebuilding project.
Even in lieu of De Jong’s less than enthusiastic response, Chelsea have continued negotiations with Barcelona and claim the two clubs are close to reaching an agreement over the fee, according to Sport.
The ball, however, as it has done throughout the summer, is likely to remain in De Jong’s court as he weighs up whether or not to commit his future to Barcelona, or jump ship to the Premier League.
Chelsea also remain interested in another Barcelona player, Pierre-Emerick Aubmayeng, while Marcos Alonso is on the verge of moving in the opposite direction.