Neymar, Messi, Bale and Ronaldo Watch: Big Goals and Big Contracts
With Neymar injured and Gareth Bale feeling the effects of illness, it was left to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to provide the on-pitch excitement in this week’s "Neymar, Messi, Bale and Ronaldo Watch."
There has, though, also been plenty of off-pitch news, including record-breaking contract negotiations, slickly produced World Cup adverts and an exclusive Bleacher Report interview with one of the famous four.
Here, we break down the last seven days for the big-name players of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Neymar is currently on the sideline with a metatarsal injury, as per The Guardian, so he was not involved in any match action this week.
The Brazilian forward took time out of his recuperation schedule to speak to Bleacher Report’s Will Tidey this past week. He answered questions about settling in at Barcelona and his hopes for this summer’s World Cup.
In other news, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has named Neymar as one of nine players who will definitely be part of his World Cup squad, as reported by The Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated).
Neymar also stars alongside Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Wayne Rooney in the new Nike World Cup advert (see above).
The major talking point of the week was the ongoing negotiations between Messi and Barcelona over a new contract.
Barcelona have offered Messi a deal worth €18 million a year, as per Marca (h/t Football Espana), but Messi’s camp are thought to be holding out for closer to €20 million.
If there was any doubt over his worth, he provided a timely reminder of his talents by playing his part in Barcelona’s comeback from two goals down to win 3-2 away to Villarreal on Sunday.
Messi had already, as per Squawka, seen five previous efforts on target saved by the Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, before scoring the winning goal, as he swept home with his right foot after excellent work from Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas.
He dedicated his strike to the memory of late Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, who tragically lost his battle with throat cancer on Friday.
Bale has seen little on-pitch action over the last week. As per Marca, a bout of the flu limited him to a substitute appearance against Bayern Munich in midweek, while he was rested from Real Madrid’s 4-0 victory over Osasuna on Saturday.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed, as reported by BBC Sport, that Bale will be available for Tuesday’s return leg against Bayern. Marca columnist Santiago Siguero believes Bale will line up on the left of the midfield in a 4-4-2 formation.
Ronaldo returned to the Real Madrid starting lineup against Bayern Munich in midweek following four matches on the sideline with knee and hamstring troubles. He marked the occasion with a vital contribution to the only goal of the match, releasing Fabio Coentrao with a pinpoint pass to cross for Karim Benzema to tap home.
Ronaldo missed an excellent chance of his own from a Benzema pass and had two other efforts on target well saved by Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal. He was substituted to widespread applause in the 73rd minute.
The Portuguese forward was also in the starting XI on Saturday when Madrid maintained their league title challenge with a 4-0 win at home to Osasuna. He scored early in each half, cutting inside and firing an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the net for his first and then repeating the trick for his second.
Marca saluted the quality of the strikes by dubbing him “Ronaldo da Vinci.”
He was substituted just past the hour mark, with Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern in mind. He looks in fine shape to make a decisive contribution in Munich.