Erik ten Hag is set to step up his pursuit of Frenkie de Jong at Manchester United — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: Neymar could be on the move.
Ten Hag to step up De Jong pursuit
United want a midfielder this summer, and De Jong, who worked under Erik ten Hag at Ajax during the pair’s time there, is one of the names under consideration.
Despite playing a key role at Barcelona last season, there’s a feeling at Old Trafford that the LaLiga giants may have to offload the Netherlands international to fund their summer transfer business. Sources told ESPN that De Jong would have to be persuaded to join United, particularly after they dropped out of the Champions League, but a move has not been ruled out.
Intermediaries working on behalf of Barcelona have tried to find potential suitors for the 25-year-old, and although Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich have asked to be kept informed, United’s interest is the strongest. Sources told ESPN that Manchester City are distancing themselves from De Jong, instead choosing to focus on Leeds United‘s Kalvin Phillips as a replacement for Fernandinho, who will leave the club this summer.
United have also registered interest in Phillips, but sources said he would be reluctant to move to Old Trafford given Leeds’ intense rivalry with United.
Barcelona are already looking for replacements for De Jong, whose transfer fee is said to be around £75 million. United are unlikely to meet those terms and would have to seek to agree a lower fee, but there is a belief Barcelona’s financial situation could leave room for compromise. — Rob Dawson
PSG soap opera continues as Neymar made available
PSG’s stance marks another U-turn at the club, following on from Mbappe’s decision to stay when he looked certain to leave on a free transfer. Neymar signed a new contract at the club last year and it has three years to run, but PSG are hoping to offload him this summer.
Mbappe’s new deal, which runs until 2025, marks a new era for the club, with sporting director Leonardo expected to leave his position soon, to be replaced by Luis Campos — an Mbappe ally, following their successful spell at Monaco together.
Campos was at Monaco when Mbappe burst onto the scene and won the Ligue 1 title in 2017, as well as reaching the Champions League semifinals. The 57-year-old has a reputation for unearthing top talent and securing large transfer fees for hidden gems, with Mbappe one of many notable successes. Campos joined Monaco in 2013, and four years later, the club had won their first title in 17 years. He will be officially announced as PSG’s new director in the coming days but is already at work shaping the squad, according to sources, with a focus on younger players.
– Inside story: Mbappe’s big change of heart
Neymar, 30, is in Qatar with some of PSG’s sponsors and said this week that he wants to stay at PSG, but the Ligue 1 champions want to generate transfer funds to shape their squad. The Brazil international joined PSG for a world record €222m from Barcelona in 2017 but has featured in only 50% of the club’s matches since joining, amid a recurring run of injuries.
Neymar’s sizable salary, which costs PSG around €35m a year, may prove a stumbling block in the event of any interested clubs coming forward to make an offer, but Chelsea have a long-standing interest in the forward. — Julien Laurens
Julien Laurens and Gab Marcotti discuss Neymar’s future amid reports that PSG want him to leave.
Barcelona pushing for mass exodus
Barcelona will tell more than 10 players that they are free to leave the club this summer as Xavi Hernandez plans to overhaul the squad following a trophyless season at Camp Nou, sources told ESPN.
However, sources add it will not be easy to relocate many of the unwanted players due to their reluctance to leave and their high salaries.
Xavi has already confirmed conversations with Riqui Puig, Oscar Mingueza, Martin Braithwaite and Samuel Umtiti in which he informed them they are not part of his long-term plans. Clement Lenglet, Ferran Jutgla, loanees Luuk de Jong and Adama Traore and those returning from loans elsewhere, such as Francisco Trincao and Miralem Pjanic, are also likely to be invited to leave.
There is also uncertainty surrounding the futures of Ousmane Dembele and Dani Alves, who are both out of contract next month, while sources add that Barca’s financial situation could force them to listen to big offers for Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong.
Despite Barca’s desire to ring the changes, though, they are already encountering hurdles. Both Braithwaite and Pjanic have spoken of their desire to fulfill the final two years of their contracts, while the high salaries earned by players like Lenglet are making finding a suitor difficult. — Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
Bale, Di Maria snubbed by Atletico
Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria have both been offered to Atletico Madrid as potential free transfers this summer, sources have confirmed to ESPN, but the LaLiga club have turned down the chance to sign either player.
The Spanish radio station COPE first reported on Monday that Bale’s representatives had offered him to Atletico, saying the discussion had taken place in a meeting with the club’s sporting director Andrea Berta. Sources told ESPN that Atletico appreciated the offer but felt the finances involved in such a deal would make it difficult to justify, given Bale’s age. If they were to strengthen their attack, they would prefer to focus their efforts on a player who could contribute to the team over a longer period of time.
Bale is preparing for Real Madrid’s Champions League final against Liverpool in Paris on Saturday after an injury-disrupted season. Sources close to the player told ESPN that no decisions would be taken on his future until after he had featured for Wales in their June matches, which include a World Cup qualifying play-off final against Scotland or Ukraine. Bale and his family have been happy living in Madrid despite his reduced role in the team in recent years, and his family remained in the Spanish capital during his 2020-21 loan at Tottenham.
Atletico have also been offered Di Maria, who played his final game for PSG last weekend, starting and scoring in a 5-0 win over Metz at the Parc des Princes. He has played 295 games for the Ligue 1 club since signing from Manchester United in 2015, scoring 92 goals.
“I’m calm. There’s time, I have to think,” he told ESPN on Saturday. “It isn’t just my decision, I’ll always think about my family and then about me. I’ll decide what’s best for everyone.” — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez
Carmo in demand
Sources told ESPN that a bid of around €25 million would secure a move away from Braga, with a number of English clubs having already registered their interest.
Manchester United are among the clubs looking for a left-footed centre-back this summer to bring more balance to their defence and have placed Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres on their shortlist of options. — Rob Dawson