Xavi admits he is still unsure whether Frenkie de Jong will remain a Barcelona player this season but is adamant he will play an important role in the team if he stays. The Dutchman was named as a substitute in the Catalan side’s first match of the new La Liga season on Saturday night, which ended in a goalless draw against Rayo Vallecano.
De Jong was brought on as a replacement for Gavi after an hour and gave an excellent cameo off the bench, winning plaudits for the tenacity and drive he showed as Barca sought a winner. His display, coupled with a late second yellow for Sergio Busquets, means he is likely to start Barca’s next match against Real Sociedad in a week’s time.
That is, of course, if he is still at the club with both Manchester United and Chelsea still trying to prise the Dutchman away from Camp Nou. Although Xavi appreciates De Jong’s ability, there is also a recognition that the 25-year-old may need to be sold in order to ease Barcelona’s financial issues with Jules Kounde missing the draw with Rayo Vallecano as he was not allowed to be registered.
De Jong was thought to be keen to remain in Catalonia but reports in Spanish newspaper Sport on Saturday claim he has now come around to the idea of reuniting with Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford. The Netherlands international is angry with the way he has been treated by Barca’s hierarchy – who have pressured him to leave to ease their financial issues – and has even been telling his team-mates that he now expects to join United before the window closes.
Xavi, though, gave no indication that a deal for De Jong to join the Red Devils had advanced following the draw with Rayo Vallecano and is still counting on the midfielder for now. Speaking about the Dutchman after initially putting him on the bench, the Barcelona boss explained:
‘Frenkie de Jong is not a reserve player, I’ve said that several times. He’s an important player for us. ‘I don’t know what will happen, but if Frenkie stays he will be important to us. Just look at the situation he played in today.’
Probed on the futures of both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and De Jong, Xavi continued:
‘I am counting on him (Aubameyang). I’m really delighted with him, he can help us. Those I am not counting on already know, they know won’t play. Between now and 31 August, different things can happen, but I like Auba, he can help us. ‘De Jong is the same as Auba, he is important for me. He’s in the squad and we will use him. I don’t know what will happen between now and 31 August, but not just with Frenkie or with Auba, with almost everyone in the squad.’
United agreed a fee worth around £73million with Barcelona last month but the deal has stalled due to both De Jong’s reluctance to leave Camp Nou and the £14m in deferred wages he is still owed by the club.