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A sensational new report claims Barcelona have asked Frenkie de Jong to rip up his current contract and revert to his previous deal, with the Catalan giants alleging that the terms he received from the club's previous board involved criminality.
The Athletic's David Ornstein has reported that Barcelona have written to De Jong to claim they have found evidence of criminal actions on behalf of the parties who signed his contract renewal on October 20, 2020.
De Jong agreed to a two-year extension until 2026 that reduced his salary for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons to help alleviate Barcelona's financial troubles, leaving €18m (£15.2m) in deferred payments to be spread across the subsequent four campaigns.
It is those deferred payments that have caused an issue this summer, with De Jong reportedly refusing to leave the club unless he is paid what he is owed.
Manchester United have had a bid accepted for De Jong but the Netherlands international is yet to agree to the move, with the outstanding money thought to be a major reason for his reluctance to leave the Nou Camp.
Barcelona are hoping to sell De Jong to free up funds and reduce their bloated wage bill, with the club currently unable to register a number of new signings including star striker Robert Lewandowski.
The Athletic claim that Barcelona sent the letter to De Jong on July 14, informing the midfielder they believe "they are in a position to initiate criminal proceedings to establish what happened in relation to the signing of his contract and ascertain where responsibility resides for the supposed wrongdoing".
The letter is also believed to have expressed Barcelona's desire to revert De Jong's contract to the terms that he initially signed when he joined Barcelona from Ajax in 2019.
De Jong's contract renewal was announced the following year alongside that of three other players, Gerard Pique, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Clement Lenglet, and was one of the final decisions made by former president Josep Bartomeu prior to the club's entire board of directors stepping down.
The Athletic claim the previous board are confident that De Jong's contract renewal was entirely legal and insist the deal was given full approval by all parties involved, including La Liga.
But the current Barcelona board have reportedly identified their predecessors for alleged criminality and have warned that De Jong and his representatives that they may also be implicated.
It comes after the head of the Dutch players' union, Evgeniy Levchenko, slammed Barcelona's treatment of De Jong as "insane" – even suggesting that the club are carrying out "a kind of extortion" with the midfielder, a claim which current club president Joan Laporta denies.
De Jong is thought to want to remain at Barcelona despite the interest from Manchester United, with Chelsea also linked with the midfielder.
Meanwhile, Laporta insists Barcelona want to keep De Jong despite their current financial issues.
"He is a Barca player of great quality and we want him to stay. He has offers but we want him to stay and he wants to stay too," said Laporta.