The golden cages of Neymar, Pogba, Coutinho and Bale
Football Difficult situations with their clubs
The transfer window is set to close in England on Thursday at 18:00 CEST, while it will do so on August 23 in Italy and September 2 in Spain, France and Germany. As such, the situations of Neymar, Paul Pogba, Philippe Coutinho and Gareth Bale will be more than complicated if their futures are not resolved by these dates.
Admittedly each of the four footballers’ cases are different, yet it is true that time is running out for them to resolve their futures, while their options are getting slimmer and slimmer.
The four respective clubs – Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid – are refusing to let the players leave on the cheap, which makes any potential buyers wince at the total of cost of signing them, despite their undoubted talent.
After a season to forget for the Brazilian star at PSG, which was marked by injuries and off-field issues, Neymar is determined to return to Spain. Even Thomas Tuchel, the current coach of the French side, acknowledged that the footballer wanted to leave in July: “I knew that Neymar wanted to leave before the Copa America.”
Last March, MARCA revealed that Neymar was once again dreaming of signing for Real Madrid. Before the 27-year-old joined Barcelona in 2013, both he and his father fell in love with both Los Blancos and the Blaugrana.
Once the summer began and the rumours of Real Madrid‘s dwindled somewhat, Neymar became clear that he wanted to return to Barcelona. This is where the problem arises, though. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is aware of the situation, but he is not willing to let their superstar depart for a figure less than what they paid Barcelona in 2013: 222 million euros.
The truth is that, to this point, no club is willing to meet PSG‘s 300 million euro asking price for Neymar. In the event that a club meets PSG‘s valuation, there is the issue of the Brazilian’s 34 million euro a year salary, which Barcelona would be unable to meet. Neymar is not willing to take a significant pay cut either.
In the same situation, or very similar, is that of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba. The English side are determined to not lose their only star asset, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer keen to build around the French maverick. “I have no doubt that Pogba will remain at Manchester United this season, he’s going to stay with us,” Solskjaer said a few days ago.
Just four years ago, when Pogba chose to return to Manchester, he had ruled out a move to Real Madrid, despite Los Blancos never showing a real intent to sign the 26-year-old.
However, fast-forward to 2019 and Pogba is adamant that he wants to wear the white of Real Madrid, as both he and his agent, Mino Raiola, have been stating. “Everyone at United knows that Pogba wants to leave,” Raiola said a month ago. With the transfer window in England set to close on Thursday, though, it seems unlikely that the Red Devils would be able to bring in the requisite replacement, so it seems almost impossible that he will end up at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
United‘s response to Raiola‘s comments was to first refuse to negotiate his exit before subsequently placing a 200 million euro price tag on Pogba‘s head, a price far above his market value. His salary of 14 million euros a year is something that Real Madrid could meet, and Zinedine Zidane has been open about his desire to bring Pogba to the Spanish capital, but Florentino Perez is refusing to pay twice what United paid for the World Cup winner, especially given his turbulent campaign last season.
A different case is that of the Barcelona playmaker. The recent Copa America winner, a tournament in which Philippe Coutinho played well, is on the transfer list. He is the player that Barcelona are willing to sacrifice, a decision made by president Josep Maria Bartomeu and Ernesto Valverde, as they look to bring in some much-needed funds for a player who has hugely underwhelmed at the Camp Nou since arriving in January 2018.
The situation is as follows: the player does not want to go anywhere, while Barcelona are looking to recoup as much of the fee they paid to Liverpool – around 150 million euros – as possible. At present, his market value is less than 100 million euros and the main interest he has received has been from clubs in England.
Here is the main problem, though: the Brazilian has offers from different Premier League clubs, Manchester United amongst others, but the most expensive signing in Barcelona‘s history does not want to play for any other side in England apart from Liverpool.
There has also been interest from Italy, but it seems very unlikely that anyone in Serie A could meet Barcelona‘s demands, while they have not met the sporting and economic desires of the player.
On top of that, Coutinho‘s agent, Kia Joorabchian, has stated his dissatisfaction with Barcelona on several occasions for the way in which they have treated the playmaker: “They must tell the truth. If they want Coutinho to leave, they should say it.” Although the club’s leaders do not want to publicly put the 27-year-old on the transfer list so as not to damage his value, Barcelona will continue to look for potential destinations for Coutinho, but the options are getting fewer and fewer.
The last footballer in a golden cage is Gareth Bale. He’s in a similar situation to Coutinho as it’s the club that want to sell, rather than the player himself looking to move on. Unlike Coutinho, though, Zinedine Zidane has taken it upon himself to try and push the Welshman out the exit door himself.
It’s been just over two weeks since Zidane said the “if he goes tomorrow, all the better” quote. To which he added: “It’s nothing personal. There comes a time when you need to make a change. And it’s good for everyone if he leaves. The departure is the decision of the coach and also of the player, who knows the situation.” Jonathan Barnett, Bale‘s agent, then responded: “There has never been a relationship with Zidane.”
Of all the players in this golden cage, Bale actually came closest to leaving when Jiangsu Suning came knocking, but eventually the forward’s family and Florentino‘s unwillingness to let him leave for free brought that deal to a halt.
Real Madrid first asked for around 90 million euros for Bale, a figure close to what they paid Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 and above his market value. The truth is that despite dropping their asking price due to the lack of offers, no convincing bid has come to satisfy the needs of the club and the player, who earns 17 million euros net per year. Inter have been one of the clubs who have been monitoring his situation, but they would be unable to pay both his transfer fee and his exorbitant wages.
Therefore, with the Chinese transfer window now closed, if no appealing offers arrive from England, Bale will only have two viable options left: Bayern Munich or PSG.