The thrills and spills of the Frenkie de Jong sagaTM have kept us invigorated all summer, and today is no different. Word comes from Spain that the player would only leave Barcelona for Chelsea, who aren’t prepared to pay him as much danger money as Manchester United, and that he has advised teammates of his intention to remain at the Camp Nou and swerve Old Trafford. Shortly afterwards, Joan Laporta was seen crying softly at his desk, while Xavi finalised plans for the next friendly – in which he plans to try De Jong at ballboy.
In other “més que un cult” news, Barça won’t be able to re-sign Lionel Messi – but not because they’re mortgaging their future to stay alive in the present, spending money with which they should pay current players on buying new ones. Rather, Messi has a contract with Paris Saint-Germain – presumably not unlike the ones Robert Lewandowski had with Bayern Munich and Raphinha with Leeds. “We will see in the future. It’s not the time to talk about him,” said Xavi, talking about him anyway.
Back to Manchester United, meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo is still frantically trying to escape. It turns out that, while the shame of playing in the Europa League is intense, it’s not as intense as declaring a wish to avoid it only to be rejected at every turn. After receiving polite “faz-me um limãos” from Chelsea and Bayern, it looked like Atlético Madrid were the sole remaining option, but Enrique Cerezo, the club president has denied the link, saying reports of it are “invented” and that “It’s practically impossible” for the move to happen. Enjoy Shkupi (a) old mate!
An affronted Ronaldo is surely exactly the tonic required by United’s dressing room, already much-vaunted for its work ethic and moral fibre. On which point, Anthony Martial – the chief beneficiary of Ronaldo’s incapacitation, back to his devastating best now no one is fit – will be targeted by Juventus, should they be unable to rescue Álvaro Morata from Atlético.
Talking of strikers who don’t score, Newcastle fancy taking Timo Werner from Chelsea, whose off-the-ball movement should create space for the deadly and prolific Chris Wood. And the Toon are also pondering a bid for Ludovic Ajorque, the Strasbourg striker who also interests Crystal Palace and Leicester.
Leicester may, though, be losing a goalie – Kasper Schmeichel is keen to spend next season fronting up in France, having agreed to join Nice. But the move hasn’t been approved as Brendan Rodgers hasn’t found a replacement, while Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the club chairman, says he has received no offers for Youri Tielemans – who Mikel Arteta reckons would be perfect for Arsenal’s relentless assault on fifth place.
On the other side of north London, Antonio Conte continues his one-man assault on Daniel Levy’s Klarna. For his next Juventus cast-off, he’d like to sign Weston McKennie for Tottenham, but the 23-year-old midfielder may now be required in Turin, following Paul Pogba’s knee injury.
And finally, Chelsea are still scrabbling about for defenders. Should Jules Koundé spurn them, as expected, for the tall stories and magic beans being offered by Barça, they will try to get Denzel Dumfries from Inter and perhaps Wesley Fofana from Leicester – both of whom should gel well with Thiago Silva and Kalidou Koulibaly, if reports of their excellent kalooki skills are to be believed.