With Frenkie de Jong's move to Manchester United looking more unlikely by the day, have the Red Devils lost some of their pulling power in the transfer market?
There is always one transfer story that dominates a window and this summer that honour belongs to none other than Netherlands international De Jong, who has apparently been close to exiting Barcelona for United for several weeks now.
Reports have claimed both the Red Devils and the Catalans have come to an agreement over a transfer fee, believed to be worth around 83million euros, and it was thought personal terms would not be an issue, given the fact the midfielder would be working under his former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag.
The duo enjoyed a fruitful relationship together at the Dutch giants, winning the Eredivisie title and the KNVB Cup in the 2018/19 campaign, and the prospect of the pair reuniting is one that had United fans excited ahead of the new Premier League season.
However, there is now growing doubt a move will be completed due to the fact De Jong is eager to stay at the Nou Camp and doesn't want to make the switch to the Old Trafford.
Given this reported news, does this mean United are no longer able to compete for the world's leading players and convince them to join the club?
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For the leading players in world football these days, participating in the Champions League plays a big part in deciding where they ply their trade and the fact the Red Devils failed to qualify for Europe's top competition has massively dented their transfer plans.
That being said, it isn't the be-all and end-all for some players and the sheer prestige of a club can be enough to convince an individual to put pen-to-paper on a contract.
A good example of this came when United signed Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2017, even though the club were not in the Champions League.
Unfortunately for the red side of Manchester, the drop in standards over recent years and the constant chopping and changing in the dugout appears to have put players off and the Old Trafford lure is maybe not what it once used to be - with United 6/4 to finish in the top four next season and 4/9 to secure a top-six spot.
You only have to look at Christian Eriksen and the amount of time it took him to decide where he would be playing football this season.
The Denmark international spent the second half of the 2021/22 campaign at Brentford, signing a short-term contract, and he impressed during his stint in West London.
Bees boss Thomas Frank made clear his intention to keep the midfielder at the club, revealing there was a contract offer on the table, although a host of other sides were also interested.
Newcastle United were also said to be in the mix, while United also threw their name into the hat and they ultimately managed to acquire the 30-year-old's signature.
However, Eriksen was deliberating his decision for some time and while there is no disrespect towards Brentford or the Magpies, a United offer from years gone by would have snapped up over almost any side, particularly in the Premier League.
This protracted pursuit of De Jong is doing United no favours and it will be even worse if they continue to pursue him and end up missing out come deadline-day on 1st September.
With the need for a new central midfielder, Ten Hag should really give up the ghost of the Netherlands international and turn to other options to ensure he strengthens the squad.
Declan Rice would be one the Red Devils may decide to look at and although they may have to fork out a hefty sum, the West Ham United midfielder is someone who could be tempted into a move to Old Trafford.
Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves is another that could be on the shortlist and there is more scope this could happen given the fact he is looking to challenge himself at a higher level.
Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham has also been linked with United, but with BVB in the Champions League and the former Birmingham City ace an integral part of the first-team, it looks highly unlikely he will be tempted away from the Westfalenstadion.
Whatever happens in the rest of the transfer market, Ten Hag will be under a degree of pressure to deliver this season and United can be backed at 28/1 to win the Premier League title for the first time since 2013.
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