Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong could be headed for the Premier League in January — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: How Man United hope to find De Gea’s heir.
Frenkie de Jong in demand with Premier League giants
Chelsea are thought to have received encouragement that De Jong may be willing to reconsider his future after deciding not to leave Camp Nou in the summer, despite Barca’s willingness to let the player leave.
United made the running for months and eventually agreed a deal worth an initial €65 million, rising to around €85m including add-ons, before Chelsea made contact late in the window as De Jong stalled over a move to Old Trafford. However, the Netherlands international opted to stay in Spain despite huge pressure from Barcelona to force him out, as they sought to balance the books and comply with LaLiga’s salary cap.
De Jong has started just five matches in all competitions this season and Barcelona are facing the prospect of failing to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, both factors which have given his Premier League suitors hope that a January deal could be struck.
Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante for four months after the France international underwent hamstring surgery this week. Kante’s contract expires at the end of the season, while Jorginho is also yet to agree an extension. Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali are pursuing a strategy of signing younger players to long contracts and sources have told ESPN they have a good relationship with HCM Sports Management, who count De Jong among their clients.
United remain interested but would have to juggle their finances after spending around €240m in the summer transfer window. Liverpool are also in the market for a central midfielder and sources said that the club have made contact with De Jong’s representatives.
Everything depends on De Jong softening his stance, however, to fire the starting pistol on a race for his signature. — James Olley, Rob Dawson
Man United seek specialist to find De Gea’s successor
Manchester United are looking to hire a recruitment analyst to help the club to sign the world’s best goalkeepers. The role is part of a planned expansion of the technical chief scout team at Old Trafford and will focus on finding goalkeepers to be part of the first-team squad.
David de Gea is United’s No. 1, although manager Ten Hag said the club will wait before deciding whether to extend the 31-year-old’s contract. The Spain international has a deal until the end of the season, although United also have an option to extend it until the summer of 2024.
Meanwhile, England goalkeeper Dean Henderson, on loan at Nottingham Forest, is under contract at United until at least 2025 and backup Martin Dubravka was signed on a season-long loan from Newcastle in the summer.
The job advert for United’s new role says the club are looking for a candidate “to contribute to the continued expansion and development of the technical chief scout team at Manchester United Football Club, with the specific purpose of identifying players who demonstrate the potential to play for the first team” and “to analyse the playing performance of potential scouting targets with a specific emphasis on goalkeepers.” — Rob Dawson
Barcelona plan farewells to senior leadership group
Busquets and Roberto are both out of contract next summer, while Pique and Alba both have deals until 2024.
Pique and Alba have both lost their place in the team this season under former teammate Xavi Hernandez, although Busquets remains ever-present in midfield. Roberto, who signed a one-year renewal in June, has featured regularly at right-back due to injuries. Busquets, 34, will make a decision on his future at some point after the World Cup and is reportedly weighing up offers from Major League Soccer.
Xavi values the versatility of Roberto, who is the youngest of the quartet at 30, but the Catalan club would like to strengthen at right-back and in midfield, if not in January then next summer.
The situation is more complicated with Pique, who will turn 36 in January, and Alba, 33, as both have 18 months to run on their deals and, in addition to their large salaries, are owed significant sums of money in deferred wages. For Barca to move the duo on, they will have to find clubs willing to take on their salaries or negotiate an early contract termination with the two players.
Speaking at the club’s AGM this month, president Joan Laporta and director of football Mateu Alemany both referred to the fact the salaries being commanded by certain players have held the club back in the transfer market.
“There are salaries that are way above the market rate,” Alemany said. “It has massively hindered what we can do in terms of transfers. These players are impossible to transfer and do damage in terms of [financial] fair play. The main objective is that those wages disappear.” — Sam Marsden, Moises Llorens
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss the possibility of Mauricio Pochettino taking the manager’s job at Aston Villa.
Pochettino wants Premier League return
Mauricio Pochettino favours a return to Premier League management and is prepared to wait for the right opportunity, sources have told ESPN, after emerging as Aston Villa‘s favoured candidate to replace Steven Gerrard.
Sources said Villa’s owners are prepared to spend in January to bolster a squad that has won just two games this season. Former Tottenham boss Pochettino is highly regarded at Villa Park, but the 50-year-old could yet attract offers from elsewhere.
Pochettino has been out of work since leaving Paris Saint-Germain in July, 18 months after taking charge at the Parc des Princes, and sources said that he made the final two on the shortlist to become Manchester United manager before being overlooked in favour of Erik ten Hag.
Despite Pochettino’s availability, Chelsea opted against hiring the Argentine after firing Thomas Tuchel earlier this season, deciding instead to appoint Brighton boss Graham Potter. But although he has missed out on two major Premier League jobs at United and Chelsea, sources said that Pochettino still favours a return to England ahead of managing in Spain or Italy, where he has been touted as a potential replacement for Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus, who are eighth in Serie A after winning just four of their 10 league games so far this season.
With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to trigger a six-week Premier League shutdown on Nov. 13, sources have said several clubs will assess their managerial situation at that point because of the possibility of a new manager having a lengthy period without games to settle into a job and with Pochettino having a track record of improving Premier League teams at Southampton and Spurs, he is ready to wait for the right offer in England. — Mark Ogden