Xavi denies ‘playing games’ with Frenkie de Jong after playing midfielder at centre-back against Real Madrid

Xavi Hernandez at presentation of Santander Bank in Barcelona, Catalonia
Xavi Hernandez at presentation of Santander Bank in Barcelona, Catalonia - IMAGO / Agencia EFE

Barcelona manager Xavi has dismissed claims he is ‘sending messages’ to Frenkie de Jong after playing the midfielder in defence amid uncertainty over his future.

The Dutch midfielder who is a transfer target of Manchester United this summer did not start any of Barcelona’s pre-season clashes in America. But last night he was asked to play as a centre-back in Barca’s clash with Real Madrid after coming on as a substitute.

After the game, some supporters suggested that playing De Jong out of position was an attempt by Xavi to persuade the midfielder to complete his move to Manchester United. 

But the manager dismissed this, saying: 

“Frenkie? I don’t send messages. I spoke with him. I like him a lot,’ he said. ‘For me, he is a fundamental footballer, but there is also the economic situation and fair play. ‘He can bring us a lot as a centre-back. I like him in that position.”

Manchester United have courted De Jong for months but nothing has been confirmed despite Erik ten Hag being desperate to capture the 25-year-old’s signature. Barca are reportedly willing to sell given their debt issues as the transfer fee would fetch around £60 million. But the midfielder is not interested in a move to Old Trafford because he is owed deferred wages at Nou Camp. 

Despite the financial issues they face, Barcelona have continued to spend big by bringing in Raphinha for £49m and Robert Lewandowski for £42.5m.