England new boy Toney relishing the chance to claim a World Cup spot
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Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong may live to regret his decision to turn down a summer move to Manchester United as he looks to earn a place in the Netherlands squad for this year’s World Cup. The Dutchman was relentlessly targeted by United in one of the main transfer sagas of pre-season but ended up staying at the Nou Camp after refusing to entertain the idea of joining the Red Devils.
United even managed to agree a fee at club level with Barcelona but were thwarted by De Jong’s determination to stay and fight for his place, missing out on his signature as a result. The former Ajax midfielder has only featured sporadically at Barcelona since the end of the transfer window, though, with his lack of minutes potentially able to harm his chances of starting for the Netherlands in Qatar later this year.
Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal admitted on Tuesday that De Jong’s variable playing time could be a concern ahead of the World Cup, with this month’s Nations League fixtures against Poland and Belgium set to serve as the final warm-up matches for the tournament.
“It is true that many players called me in the transfer window,” began Van Gaal at a press conference. “But I always ended every conversation with: ‘This is my advice, but you make your own decision’.
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“I am happy with the outcome. But I would be happier if Frenkie and Memphis [Depay] would play more than they are now.”
De Jong will be desperate to nail down a place in the Netherlands squad by impressing against Poland on Thursday before returning to Barcelona at the end of the international break. He is currently the highest-paid player at the Nou Camp but has been reduced to a bit-part role over the course of this season, with Xavi having rotated between De Jong, Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Gavi and Franck Kessie in midfield as of late.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether United will eventually decide to reignite their pursuit of the Dutch playmaker, who is still tied down to Barcelona until the summer of 2026 as things stand. The Red Devils went on to sign Casemiro after giving up on De Jong over the summer but it has been suggested that Erik ten Hag could be eager to bring in another central midfielder between now and the start of next season.
The United boss is reportedly set to be given at least £75million to use as he sees fit in January after spending in excess of £200m on new players during the summer months. Ten Hag’s mid-season budget could also rise by another £25m if Cristiano Ronaldo leaves United at the turn of the year, which may boost their hopes of finally landing De Jong if they decide to try again.
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