Neymar, Barcelona and the impasse that has left this transfer window at a curious standstill

It was during a meeting at their Montreal pre-season base on Wednesday that Real Madrid’s hierarchy sat down with Zinedine Zidane, in an attempt to persuade him to drop his interest in Paul Pogba. The French manager had asked president Florentino Perez and director general Jose Angel Sanchez to make one last push for the Frenchman, but they insisted it was “very difficult”.

They explained how such a purchase is impossible without a major cash sale, preferably for Gareth Bale. But faced with a deadlock that shows no signs of being broken, the Welshman doesn’t look like he’ll be leaving anytime soon.

This impasse doesn’t feel like it’s consigned solely to the Bernabeu, though.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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It feels symptomatic of the entire upper end of the transfer market right now. After an initial flurry of activity where moves flowed freely – most notably to Madrid, with signings such as Eden Hazard and Stevan Jovic – it’s now reaching something of a standstill.

Madrid themselves can’t quite complete their plans in the way Zidane wanted. That has most notably affected the plans of Manchester United and Tottenham, as well as the ambition of Pogba and Christian Eriksen.


Transfer verdict 2019: Stay or go?





1/13 Stay or go? Transfer verdict 2019

2/13 David De Gea

3/13 Wilfried Zaha

4/13 Mesut Ozil

5/13 Ilkay Gundogan

6/13 Alexis Sanchez

7/13 James Maddison

8/13 Christian Eriksen

9/13 Harry Maguire

10/13 Eden Hazard

11/13 Jadon Sancho

12/13 Toby Alderweireld

13/13 Paul Pogba

1/13 Stay or go? Transfer verdict 2019

2/13 David De Gea

3/13 Wilfried Zaha

4/13 Mesut Ozil

5/13 Ilkay Gundogan

6/13 Alexis Sanchez

7/13 James Maddison

8/13 Christian Eriksen

9/13 Harry Maguire

10/13 Eden Hazard

11/13 Jadon Sancho

12/13 Toby Alderweireld

13/13 Paul Pogba

The Old Trafford hierarchy want to keep the French star, although some staff would be willing to let him go, so their own plans are somewhat contingent on Real Madrid – or one of Europe’s other big clubs – coming in for him. 

United still don’t completely know whether they will need one or two midfielders by the end of the window. So there’s an element of congestion there, too. Spurs, meanwhile, don’t completely know whether they will need to replace Eriksen, although the growing noises are that he may now sign the healthy new contract that is on the table. Again, though, that isn’t completely clear yet.

Unclear, meanwhile, is also how to describe Neymar’s entire situation – not least whether he can be the same star he suggested a few years ago.

It’s just as hard to know whether Barcelona are fully committed to taking him back from Paris Saint-Germain after all the controversy and, in truth, humiliation of the summer of 2017. Some on the French board have reservations. Others who have worked with the club genuinely wonder, and aren’t completely joking when they say it aloud, whether this is all some elaborate revenge. If Barcelona don’t end up signing him, Neymar will have been unsettled, PSG would have effectively been forced into saying they want to sell him and they’ll both be stuck together.

And it does feel as if that situation which could cause the market to come unstuck.

Consider the following chain: if Barcelona do move for Neymar, PSG would then want to bring in a star for all manner of reasons and would probably move for Pogba. That might finally prompt Madrid to make their move for the French star, although Barca’s coup in getting a signing like Neymar, with all the noise that makes, could be enough to do that on its own. Madrid would need to respond, and we might thereby see a series of chain reactions whereby every next club needs to get their next player to replace the one that has just left.

There could well be a bidding war for Pogba, if Juventus also decided to act, with the outcome ultimately seeing United requiring a replacement. They themselves could go for Eriksen, although might face competition from whoever loses out on Pogba. PSG have been looking at the Dane, too, after all.

So much depends on Neymar. And the sudden re-entry of Madrid, as they hope to off-load Bale, only further complicates this. It further complicates matters for Barca, too, leaving this window at a curious impasse.

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