De Jong, 25, remains the priority target for Erik ten Hag, despite the Manchester United manager already having made his mark in the transfer market. Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez have all arrived and further recruits are still on the agenda.
Although those three will strengthen the ranks in their own way as part of this ongoing rebuild, De Jong is the one Ten Hag really wants and discussions with Barcelona are now into their third month. But have the club just offered up the biggest hint yet that De Jong will sign this summer?
Such is the way in modern times, players at the top level become synonymous with particular squad numbers and that is certainly the case with De Jong. He wears 21 at Barcelona and for the Netherlands after picking up the jersey during his early days as an Ajax player.
Martinez and Eriksen have both worn that number, too, and did so for Ajax and Brentford, respectively, last season. Martinez has taken the number six and Eriksen is United's new number 14.
It means the number 21 is still free… United have some way to go before getting a deal for De Jong over the line – if that move does happen – but the Netherlands international will be able to wear his preferred squad number should he finally arrive at Old Trafford.