De Jong has 'strong possibility' of staying at Barcelona despite Man Utd pursuit

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Frenkie de Jong has a "strong possibility" of staying at Barcelona despite intense interest from Manchester United, according to Joan Laporta.

United have been chasing the Barca midfielder since hiring his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag as their new manager, but De Jong is understood not to be keen on missing out on Champions League football by making the switch.

The Netherlands international is said to be owed €17million in deferred wages and being asked to sign a new contract with a salary reduction of around 40 per cent.

Selling De Jong would significantly improve Barcelona's hopes of successfully registering new arrivals like Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde and making further moves in the market.

However, Laporta suggested the most likely outcome is that De Jong will stay put – even if he cannot be tied down to a new contract on reduced terms.

"The first thing to say is we want Frenkie to stay at Barcelona. We love the player and him as a human being. I want him to stay at Barcelona. He's a high-quality player and a good guy. I also know that he wants to stay," Laporta told CBS.

"In football, you never know. I can't say categorically [he won't join United]. It all depends on the different parties. But in principle, I can say there is a strong possibility he stays, and I can say as president I will do my best for him to stay at Barcelona.

"All we are doing with Frenkie is the same as the rest of the squad. The signings coming in have adjusted their salary to the new structure. But Frenkie has a contract and we respect that. We can't force him to take a pay cut. It's his decision.

"We have explained the situation and are grateful to any players who can help us. It was the same with [Ousmane] Dembele, and I am very grateful to him. And after months of talks, he accepted a renegotiation of his salary and he can be proud of his decision."

Asked what will happen if De Jong refuses a new deal and stays at Barca, Laporta replied: "Then he will continue. He has a contract. We will respect that decision. For us, he's a Barcelona player. We count on him."

Barca sold off a percentage of their TV revenue for the next 25 years to help get them out of a financial hole, but their decision to use the funds raised to sign players instead of pay off deferred wages has come in for criticism. However, Laporta feels the approach is justified.

"The club has a payroll that's 40 per cent higher than our competitors'. We have to reduce this, and it's not easy. But the players we are talking about – who have taken pay cuts – all love Barca.

"To me, the players we have signed this summer are investments, not expenses. And our existing players understand this perfectly. The new signings adjust their salaries to the new structure that we have created and all we ask is the current squad, where possible, do the same.

"People outside the club don't have all the information. We have to act this way or the club will probably disappear."

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