Lionel Messi already delivered verdict on Man Utd target as Erik ten Hag continues to push

Five players whose Man Utd careers ten Hag can revive

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Lionel Messi has already delivered his verdict on Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong as Erik ten Hag continues to push to sign the Barcelona midfielder. Messi and De Jong were team-mates at the Nou Camp for two seasons before the Argentina superstar left to join Paris Saint-Germain last summer.

De Jong joined Barcelona from Ajax in 2019 when Ernesto Valverde was in charge at the Nou Camp. And the Netherlands international soon became a regular at the heart of the Barca midfield after previously helping Ajax reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.

After working under Valverde and his successor Quique Setien during his first season in Spain, De Jong had the opportunity to play under his compatriot Ronald Koeman during his second season at the Nou Camp after the former Southampton manager had been appointed boss. And last year, Koeman revealed a conversation the duo had had in the presence of Messi as the forward gushed over De Jong.

“When I arrived I told Frenkie, ‘this is your second season, you have to make a step higher now, you need to do more than just play along,’” Koeman told De Telegraaf. “This sounds cruel – but he got the message.

“I told him to take more responsibility – to arrive in the opponent’s box more. During these conversations I also involved Messi. Messi told Frenkie that he is a fantastic player. He becomes happy around a player like Frenkie, because he wants to have pure football players around him.

“When we talk with the three of us, Messi shares his opinion towards Frenkie. He always tries to activate him, as Messi believes that Frenkie can reach a much higher level. He finds him a very intelligent player.”

United are desperate to sign De Jong this summer as they target a big season under Ten Hag. The Dutchman began his work at Old Trafford last month after taking over from Ralf Rangnick, who made a swift exit from the club following a dismal record as interim boss.

Ten Hag was the man who led Ajax to their European semi-final three years ago and spent 18 months working with De Jong in Holland before sanctioning his move to Barca. And the 52-year-old would surely love a reunion with a player who gave him so much.

De Jong is regarded as one of the best midfielders in Europe. And if Ten Hag can persuade him to choose Old Trafford over the Nou Camp, the player could prove to be the catalyst United need to help them compete for Premier League honours once again.

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