Football News

De Jong, Silva and Phillips: the transfer triangle where everyone gets what they want (except Frenkie)

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:30, 19 June 2022 | Updated: 14:02, 21 September 2022

The summer’s outstanding transfer saga so far has been Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United.

Kylian Mbappé’s two year tango with Real Madrid ended abruptly and Lewandowski’s desire to join Barcelona has quietened down after threatening to erupt into a full-on saga (which probably means a deal is close).

But De Jong to United? Endless drama. Everything from Barcelona’s financial issues to United’s miserable Europa League status to the pull of an old coach to a young player forced to face the fact that he has to leave his dream club because of financial issues (this probably wasn’t what Frenkie had in mind when he wanted to emulate Leo Messi).

And just when it looked to be calming down as Barcelona activated some financial “levers” that should see a healthy injection of cash put into the club, both to service debts and improve the squad and importantly negate any need to sell De Jong, it took a left-turn.

Xavi wanted Bernardo Silva from Manchester City, and the Portuguese wanted out too. So in order to make that move possible, guess which transfer was back on the menu? That’s right, the saga continues!

The thing is, while the clubs may try and haggle over prices, there is a very simple way to resolve this situation so every club involved gets exactly what they want and the only entity to lose out, well, you’ll see. The clubs just need to put aside their egos and get the transfers done.



Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United

Winner: Erik Ten Hag

First and foremost: the coach gets the midfield lynchpin he wants. Erik ten Hag went to a Champions League semi-final with Ajax, demolishing Real Madrid and Juventus along the way, all with Frenkie de Jong at the heart of his midfield.

Ten Hag’s system requires a midfielder who can carry the ball through midfield, creating imbalances with great movement and dribbling. De Jong excels at all of those things and should fit right in.

Winner: Richard Arnold

United’s new CEO will get a superstar signing that, unlike his predecessor Ed Woodward, has been specifically requested by the coach and has the consistent ability to build the entire team around.

Winner: Bruno Fernandes

From dealing with the inconsistent brilliance of Paul Pogba to the consistent nonsense of McFred, poor Bruno Fernandes has been desperate for some consistent midfield help ever since he arrived at United yet until 2021/22 you’d have never guessed.

Now the veil has slipped, however, and if Bruno is going to get back to his game conquering best, he will need help. Help like Frenkie de Jong, a world-class midfielder capable of running the show at his back and putting him in superb scoring positions.

Man Utd summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September
Sky Bet
Memphis Depay 6/1
Frenkie de Jong 6/1
Marco Asensio 20/1
Christian Pulisic 25/1
Joao Pedro 25/1
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Losers: Frenkie de Jong

It feels wrong for one of the great midfielders in the world to leave a Champions League club to join a Europa League one, but that is what De Jong seems destined to do. He will also have to trade the wonderful weather of Barcelona for the more moderate meteorology of Manchester.

De Jong could well be the catalyst for more summer signings as United build a squad capable of both challenging for the Premier League and certainly getting back into the Champions League. But it always bruises the ego to have to jump first.

Bernardo Silva to Barcelona

Winner: Xavi

The Barcelona coach said that Frenkie de Jongshould mark an era at the club” and has repeatedly spoken of his faith in the Dutchman. But on the field it’s undeniable that Frenkie seems restricted by Xavi’s system of play for whatever reasons.

The same positional rules which liberate Pedri and Gavi choke the Dutchman down, and as a result he’s fallen behind both youngsters in the pecking order. Replacing him with Bernardo Silva, a midfield wizard in two positions that you know gets the system thanks to him playing in it for the last five years under Pep Guardiola is an absolutely massive win for the Catalan coach.

Winner: Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva has spent the last couple of summers seemingly ready to leave Manchester City (maybe it’s the weather?) and now he may get his chance. Moreover there is a picture of a young Bernardo Silva in a Barcelona kit, so you know the emotions are coming.

Winner: Sergio Busquets

The other big winner on the pitch for Barcelona is Sergio Busquets. When Frenkie de Jong arrived in Catalunya the assumption was he would eventually take Busquets’ role, something which the Catalan never feared. Busquets was always welcoming to De Jong and managed to establish himself enough that Frenkie had to look elsewhere (i.e. central midfield) to play, but always with the assumption that he would eventually take Busquets’ role and make it his own.

The signing of Bernardo to replace De Jong would be a huge boon to Busquets, because as versatile as he is, Bernardo Silva is no defensive midfielder. He’s a pressing machine and can carry the ball brilliantly and thread through passes to perfection. He’s basically Pedri, but older, and so would play next to Pedri, with Gavi as their alternate.

Meanwhile Busquets gets another year at least of being the unquestioned starter at defensive midfield, protected by yet another ball-dominant pressing playmaker, and then gets to renew his contract (or walk off into the sunset) on his own terms.

Summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September Sky Bet
Cristiano Ronaldo to Sporting CP 5/1
Antony to Man Utd 8/13
Christian Pulisic to Newcastle 6/1
Frenkie de Jong to Man Utd 5/2
Youri Tielemans to Arsenal 10/11
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Chelsea 2/7
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Losers: Frenkie de Jong

Frenkie de Jong had always dreamed of playing for Barcelona. In his head he’d go from Ajax to Arsenal and then Barcelona; “call it the Marc Overmars route,” he said in 2019. But then he skipped a step and went straight to the Camp Nou.

On the pitch it’s been a rough few years although he got to play with Leo Messi and win a trophy with him, something he clearly cherished. But off the pitch he and his girlfriend have really taken to living out their dream in the Catalan capital.

The saddest thing about Bernardo Silva joining Barcelona and probably just playing better than he ever did for the club would be the fact that he and his girlfriend Mikky Kiemeney would have to leave their dream behind.

Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City

Winner: Pep Guardiola’s incessant need to evolve

With Erling Haaland joining the club, Pep Guardiola could maybe feel massively frustrated that one of his key players has now decided to leave. However he should just let him go and focus on the club’s alleged interest in Kalvin Phillips.

Where Bernardo Silva is an attacking midfielder also capable of playing as a winger or false nine, Kalvin Phillips is a defensive midfielder. He might be able to bump that up to central midfielder, but he’s a pivot, a shield, a sweeper.

Well with Haaland re-shaping the side up-front, Phillips could help reshape the side in midfield. From a lone pivot and two “free 8’s” City could evolve into having a double pivot that actually stayed as a double pivot in possession, giving Pep the evolution he craves.

Winner: Marc Cucurella

Guardiola’s tactical change in midfield with the arrival of Kalvin Phillips would of course he a huge benefit to City’s other rumoured signing: Marc Cucurella. For years Guardiola has used his left-back as an auxilliary midfielder, but with Phillips and Rodri in tandem, Cucurella would be free to raid forward and essentially own the left-flank for City while the other members of the back four formed a back three behind the shield wall of Rodri and Phillips.

In essence City would be playing the old W-M formation.

Man City summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September Sky Bet
Jude Bellingham 20/1
Neymar 25/1
Ruben Neves 33/1
James Maddison 33/1
Anthony Gordon 40/1
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Winner: Jack Grealish and Phil Foden

One of the key functions of the W-M is that it has two no. 10’s behind a main striker. And while Haaland will be that striker, and Kevin de Bruyne should be a regular starter as one of the no. 10’s, this role could be an ideal way for Jack Grealish and Phil Foden to firmly establish themselves in the side.

Rather than being a jack-of-all-trades Foden could end up with a fixed position as a true 10 (whether he nominally starts on the left or not) playing behind the monstrous Haaland and developing chemistry with him. While the added defensive cover and width outside him would allow Grealish to bring more of his natural driving excellence to City’s more rigid positional play.

With Bernardo Silva as well as Raheem Sterling and possibly Gabriel Jesus all leaving City this summer, Phillips’ arrival and this new shape would allow Grealish and Foden expanded minutes and chances to shine.

Winner: Kalvin Phillips

The final winner is Phillips himself, an elegant and excellent playmaker he’s been one of the best midfielders in England since Leeds returned to the Premier League but has never once been able to realistically contest for trophies nor even have many easy games as Leeds had to fight for every inch they got. Well at City he’d be competing for every single trophy available, and within a good shout of winning them too!

Loser: None

No one loses out if Kalvin Phillips joins Manchester City. Even if some Leeds fans are sad to see their man go they will at least sleep well knowing that he’ll never pull on the red of Manchester United.

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