Laporta: ‘Not true’ Barca must let De Jong go

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has denied reports that the club will be forced to let Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong go this summer to comply with Financial Fair Play rules.

United are interested in signing De Jong for a reported fee of €85 million, but sources have told ESPN that the Netherlands midfielder wants to stay at Barca.

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De Jong’s departure would allow Barca to lower their wage bill and register right-back Sergi Roberto as well as new signings Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen.

But speaking at the unveiling of Raphinha, who completed his move from Leeds United to Barca on Friday, Laporta said the club could hold on to De Jong.

“It’s not true that the club is forced to sell Frenkie de Jong,” Laporta said on Friday.

Laporta also confirmed that De Jong will travel with Barca to Miami on Saturday for their preseason tour of the United States.

Barca coach Xavi is happy with De Jong’s performances, and the midfielder’s potential departure would be a purely financial decision rather than a sporting one.

“Frenkie is an important player for us and we count on him,” Barca football director Mateu Alemany said on Friday. “What is clear is that the Fair Play system will force players to depart.”

Laporta, meanwhile, revealed that Ousmane Dembele, who signed a two-year contract with Barca this week, has a €100m release clause.

Dembele’s previous deal with Barca expired last month.

“It has taken us eight months and we’ve been lucky that the player requested to remain at Barca,” Alemany said.

Alemany has not ruled out Barca making further signings this summer and said: “There is still a month and a half to go before the transfer window closes and many things can happen. But we have [a] very clear [idea of] what the coach wants and we will try to get it done.”

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski is a target for Barca, but the Bundesliga champions have so far been unwilling to negotiate his departure.

“We haven’t received a response from Bayern yet, but I won’t go into more details out of respect for Bayern,” Laporta said. “We have signed a Brazilian [Raphinha] and we are very enthusiastic.”

Raphinha, 25, has joined Barca for a fee which is though to be worth over €60m including add-ons.

Xavi requested the signing of the Brazil international, who has put pen to paper on a contract until June 2027.

“He’s a player that Xavi wanted and insisted on having,” Laporta said. “We are grateful that he showed a desire to come to Barca. This was crucial.

“He continues the saga of Brazilian players at Barca, of the magic and of the jogo bonito.”

Raphinha said he had fulfilled a “childhood dream” by moving to Camp Nou and is looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Brazilians Ronaldinho and Neymar.

“I have many idols that have played here and made history,” Raphinha said during his presentation. “I began to follow Barca when Ronaldinho came here. I was also influenced by Neymar Jr. If I achieve half of what they have done, it will be more than enough. I’m realising a childhood dream. I feel privileged to be here.”

ESPN revealed in June that Leeds had also accepted an offer from Chelsea for Raphinha, but the 25-year-old’s desire to move to Barca allowed the Catalan club to win the race for his signature.

“I took the decision from the beginning,” Raphinha said. “My dream was to play at Barca. I feel I have made the right decision and I will not regret it.

“I spoke to Xavi a few times. He told me that I could help the team. I think we can combine my eagerness to be a great player and his wish for me to be important.

“I know the team’s potential. I’ve come here with the aim of winning titles.”

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