De Jong next? The 8 players to play for both Man Utd and Barcelona

Quick Reads
Frenkie de Jong and Gerard Pique of Barcelona in the Champions League, Barcelona, Nou Camp 5 November 2019. Pique once played for Man Utd and De Jong has been linked with a move.

Manchester United and Barcelona are, probably, the two biggest clubs in world football. It’s therefore no surprise that midfielder Frenkie de Jong has been linked to United and, if the transfer comes off, he will join only the eight other players who have ever played for both United and Barca.

Those include heroes at both, to names either side would rather forget ever played for them and, while both clubs have a long history of developing their own talent, they’ve also got a tradition of spending big in the transfer market, and at times, that includes spending their money with each other.

If De Jong joined he would be joining back up with Erik ten Hag, his manager at Ajax who will become Manchester United’s next permanent boss at the end of the 2021-22 season.

So who are the eight players De Jong could join in wearing the colours of both Manchester United and Barcelona? We had a look to find out, and to remember how they did at both clubs.

Mark Hughes

Younger readers might only really recognise Hughes from his time as Man City manager. What a shame that is, because in his heydey he was one of the finest attackers of his generation.

He came through United’s youth academy and impressed in his early years, so much so that Terry Venebles’ Barcelona came calling in 1986 with an offer both Hughes and the club couldn’t refuse.

It didn’t go great for him and he was carted out to Bayern Munich the following year before he headed back to Manchester United, now managed by some guy called Alex Ferguson.

From that point on “Sparky” became a club icon, his status solidified when he scored a brace in the 1991 Cup Winners Cup final against who else but Barcelona.

Oh, and what a goal the second was too.

Jordi Cruyff

Yes, Cruyff is the son of the Cruyff, so it’s no surprise he came through Ajax’s academy first before moving to Barcelona.

There he would go on to make a number of senior appearances but in 1996 he attempted to break free of his father’s shadow and headed to Old Trafford.

“When you take a step like going to Manchester United you need to be mature enough, and I was probably one year short of that,” Cruyff later admitted to the BBC, after reflecting on his injury-ridden time in Manchester.

I was probably the youngest person in the village where I lived and that was tough. Now it’s a different city, a different vibe – the city is alive.”

“With the injuries, I could never catch that train [a run in the side] and have a stable season.

“When I look back at that team – Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Eric Cantona, and then the likes of Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham, and Andrew Cole – not to have played much is nothing to be ashamed of.”

He’s now a sporting advisor back in Barcelona.

Laurent Blanc

Blanc’s time at Barcelona probably came too late, having only one season in Catalonia in 1996-97 when he was 31.

Yet anyone who scores in El Classico for La Blaugrana will always have a special place in Barca folklore, as will anyone who scores a vital goal in a comeback win for Manchester United just as Blanc did in 2001 against Spurs.

Both were his only goals for both clubs, United his last in a long, World Cup-winning career.

Henrik Larsson

Larsson was more than worthy to grace both the Nou Camp and Old Trafford and, for a brief moment on his debut, it looked like he would become a United legend.

We’re not bothered that his time at United wasn’t the dream Fergie had planned, Larsson was some player.

READ: Remembering Henrik Larsson’s brief loan spell at Manchester United

Gerard Pique

We don’t need to tell you anything about Pique at Barcelona, for he is a veritable club legend in the Catalan city.

But do you know about the time a young Pique was faced with the full force of Roy Keane’s anger?

“One of my very first matches at Old Trafford, we were in the dressing room getting ready, and I was nervous as hell,” he explained in The Player’s Tribune.

“It’s dead quiet. All of a sudden, you could hear this little vibration. I realise it’s me. It’s my cell phone. I left it on vibrate, and it’s in the pocket of my pants, stuffed in the clothes bag that’s hanging right behind Roy’s head.

“He screams out to everybody, ‘Whose phone is that?!’. Silence. He asks again. Silence. He asks a third time. ‘Whose. Bloody. fucking. Phone. Is. That?!

“Finally, I spoke up, like a little boy. Very softly, I said, ‘I’m so sorry. It’s mine.’ Roy lost his mind! He went nuts in front of everybody! It was incredible. I almost shit myself. But it was a good lesson.”

We just checked to see if our phone is on silent as well, just in case Keano is about.

Victor Valdes

Yes, we’d forgotten Valdes played for Manchester United as well.

It was one of the many, many weird transfers the club has done in the post-Fergie era, and perhaps one of the absolute worst ones. The legendary ‘keeper made just two appearances for the club before he left… for Middlesborough.

Yet after all that, he still has some nice things to say about the club.

“I don’t have any bad words for [Louis] van Gaal or Manchester United,” he said.

“They helped me through my injury and the manager gave me my chance as a footballer at Barcelona and then again at United.”

We don’t blame him for retiring after playing at Middlesborough. A season at the Riverside is probably enough to make anyone quit.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibra’s time at both clubs lasted just one season, but boy were they good ones.

His arrival in Barca was as part of the most high-profile player swap deal in history, but while Inter Milan certainly ‘won’ that transfer, he had some magnificent moments in Barca’s colours just as he did for United in what was seen as the swan song of his career.

Until he came back to AC Milan to prove age doesn’t affect him, of course.

Alexis Sanchez

Sanchez might have won La Liga with Barcelona, but his brilliant ‘King of dribbling’ best came with Arsenal who he joined after leaving Barca in 2014.

Two FA Cups as their talismanic attacker later he joined Manchester United to follow in Robin van Persie’s footsteps and win the league at Old Trafford.

The less said about that, however, the better.

By Patrick Ryan


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