By Sean O’Brien
Chelsea are hopeful agreeing a fee with Barcelona for midfielder Frenkie de Jong, talkSPORT understands.
Manchester United have spent three months trying to sign de Jong but Chelsea are now confident of hijacking the deal.
However, the Blues are waiting for the Dutch midfielder to make a decision on whether to leave the Nou Camp, The Times reports.
Man United agreed a £63million deal with Barca earlier this summer, but De Jong, who wants Champions League football, has refused to join the Red Devils despite a summer-long chase.
It is understood the 25-year-old prefers a move to Stamford Bridge, but could yet stay in Spain due to an ongoing dispute over £17m owed to him in deferred wages from the COVID pandemic.
Any transfer would require De Jong and Barca to reach an agreement – and that became increasingly unlikely after the Spanish side told the player his contract is ‘illegal’.
The Catalans want to reinstate De Jong’s 2019 terms after suggesting his two-year extension, signed in October 2020, contains evidence of criminality.
Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu has rubbished these claims, insisting the deal was approved by LaLiga and the club’s auditors.
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Barca are desperately seeking ways to lower their wage bill and meet the Spanish top-flight’s regulations for registering players.
De Jong was subject to abuse from Barcelona fans demanding he accept a pay cut when arriving to a training session.
After signing Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie, Barca’s wage bill is thought to stand at around £470m and must be reduced to roughly £338m.
Chelsea, meanwhile, remain interested in Leicester defender Wesley Fofana after two bids, the second in excess of £70m, were rejected.
There are suggestions the Blues could go as high as £85m, which would represent a new world-record for a defender, but face competition from PSG.
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