Barcelona forward Neymar reportedly held a meeting with officials from Real Madrid in Zurich at the recent Ballon d’Or ceremony.
According to Al Primer Toque on Onda Cero radio (h/t Sport), the Brazilian met with “a Real Madrid representative, Andre Cury and Wagner Ribeiro.”
It’s alleged by Onda Cero in the article that Neymar is using interest in him from Barcelona’s biggest rivals to bolster his new contract, and that "Neymar's people are informing Madrid he is interested in joining them."
It has previously been reported by AS journalist Javier Matallanas (h/t Sport) that Los Blancos president Florentino Perez is extremely keen on bringing Neymar to the Santiago Bernabeu. Here’s a look at why:
If money was no object for Real in making this transfer happen, they could certainly get it a long way down the road. After all, the Brazilian has a release clause of circa £140 million in his Barcelona contract at the moment, and if the Madrid giants were to match that amount, then the player would be free to talk to them.
Therefore, the final decision could well rest with the player, who doesn’t emit the aura of a man who is ready to turn his back on Barcelona. Indeed, Spanish football expert Rafael Hernandez explained why he feels this transfer won't happen:
Neymar as a player has everything that he could ask for at Barça, Real Madrid would be a step down, literally add nothing to what he has.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) January 20, 2016
A similar scenario has happened previously, of course, with Barcelona star man Luis Figo departing for the club’s great rivals back in 2000. But back then Real were a team on the up, with the Blaugrana still in their shadow.
Now, with Neymar at the heart of a tremendous side, the Catalan giants are the major force in European football.
As Squawka Football notes here, the Brazilian is currently enjoying a magnificent campaign:
Neymar has now scored 21 goals in 29 appearances for Barcelona in all competitions this season. Cracking season. pic.twitter.com/Zz5QbCkvzp— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 20, 2016
Indeed, Sport actually query the veracity of the claims made by Onda Cero, insisting it is unlikely Cury, a Barcelona representative, was at this meeting.
“The reality is that the Ballon d'Or doesn't seem a likely place, or a secret one, to have a meeting of this time,” the piece continues. “Neymar, furthermore, says he's happy at Barcelona and it's hard to hide the reality.”
Bartra Staying Put
Barcelona centre-back Marc Bartra will not be moving anywhere in the January transfer window despite his lack of game time at the Camp Nou.
The 25-year-old has made just six starts in all competitions for the Blaugrana this term, with Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu all ahead of him in the pecking order. But the club’s technical director Robert Fernandez has dismissed any suggestions the Spanish international will be moved on.
“We’re not going to let Bartra go, that’s for sure,” he said after the team’s 2-1 win over Athletic Club on Wednesday, per Football Espana.
Spanish football expert Sergi Dominguez feels as though the defender needs to be shipped out for the sake of his career:
Marc Bartra is 25-years-old today. And barely plays any minutes, even in 'meaningless' games. Expect him to be gone soon.— Sergi Domínguez (@FutbolSergi) January 15, 2016
Does Bartra have a long-term future at Barcelona?
It’s tough not to disagree with that assessment. Although the defender remains one of a few La Masia graduates in the current squad, he’s now at an age where he needs to be playing regular football. Of course, there is definite talent there, but we’ve yet to see it on a consistent basis because of a lack of game time.
With the aforementioned trio and Thomas Vermaelen all currently battling for the centre-back spots, it’d be a big surprise to see Bartra force his way into the starting XI any time soon.
For a player who has emerged through the club’s youth ranks, the thought of leaving may be galling, but it may be necessary if he’s to live up to the early potential he showcased.