Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong part of Barcelona plans

Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong part of Barcelona plans

8:39 AM ET

Sam Marsden

Moises Llorens

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez says Frenkie de Jong remains a key part of his long-term plans despite reports linking the midfielder with a summer move away from Camp Nou.

Manchester United have been strongly credited with an interest in De Jong following the appointment of Erik ten Hag, his former boss at Ajax, while Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Manchester City have also been linked.

However, Xavi insists the Dutch international’s future lies at Barcelona, although he called on him to be more consistent moving forward.

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“He has to be a player that makes the difference and he does,” Xavi said in a news conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Mallorca (stream LIVE Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.).

“There aren’t many players with his quality in the world. He’s the present and the future [at Barca]. He is a very important player for me. He’s capable, strong, he gets into the box… He has had some excellent games, but he has to be consistent.”

De Jong, 24, has completed 90 minutes just twice in Barca’s last 10 games and was visibly annoyed to be taken off after an hour of last weekend’s defeat to Rayo Vallecano, further fuelling rumours of a summer departure.

“We had a face-to-face chat this week and it went well,” Xavi said. “Obviously being taken off is frustrating for him, but I have to look out for the team.”

Sources have told ESPN that while the player is disappointed to be taken off so regularly, with competition for places in Barca’s midfield fierce before recent injuries to Pedri and Nico Gonzalez, his desire is to stay at Barca.

Despite enjoying a run to the Champions League semifinal under Ten Hag at Ajax, the coach’s move to United, the same sources add, is not something that would necessarily enhance the Premier League side’s chances of landing De Jong.

United look set to miss out on Champions League qualification this season and a move to Old Trafford would be seen as a step back if Barca — whose financial situation dictates they have to listen to serious offers for most of their squad — did decide to entertain bids for De Jong, who joined from Ajax for €75 million in 2019. He has a contract until 2026.

Elsewhere, forward Ansu Fati is set to return against Mallorca on Sunday following three months out with a hamstring injury.

“He’s in the squad and if all goes to plan, he will play a few minutes at least,” Xavi added. “He’s happy to be back and I am happy to have him back because he’s a player that can make the difference.

“He’s special. He can play on the wing or as a No.9. He is a goal scorer and he has to be close to the box.”

Midfielders Pedri, Nico and Sergi Roberto are all sidelined, though, and Gerard Pique is a doubt with a tendon issue he’s been managing for a few months.

A late call will also be made on Ousmane Dembele, who has been suffering from tonsilitis, while Oscar Mingueza and Martin Braithwaite have both tested positive for COVID-19.

Barca are hoping to end a run of three successive defeats at Camp Nou on Sunday when they host Mallorca. A win will also see them climb back into second in the table, ahead of Sevilla.

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