Early Doors

Why the Neymar deal will force Bale to move in summer transfermaggedon

Early Doors

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Neymar is coming to Europe. The hottest property in Brazilian football. The 21-year-old striker with the world at his feet. The man who, to quote Barcelona's official and somewhat over-excited website, 'is known for his exquisite technical skills which makes this free-scoring striker a nightmare for any defence'.

But once Neymar arrives at the Nou Camp, will he actually be any good?

Nobody has the answer. His star might burn as brightly as Ronaldinho's once did in Barcelona, or he might be the next Robinho, who has flitted through periods in Spain, England and Italy with only intermittent success.

Early Doors is not going to predict Neymar's future. Suffice to say that being Leo Messi's strike partner is, historically, not quite as good as it sounds. Big-money signings like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Villa and Alexis Sanchez have found that Barcelona is the Argentine's world, and they're just living in it. If Neymar can command equal billing at the Nou Camp, we'll have our answer.

But it doesn't really matter. The significance of the Neymar transfer isn't even really what he will achieve at Barcelona. It's the statement of intent, the transfer arms race he will spark across the rest of Europe, as the footballing giants look to respond to Bayern Munich's supremacy.

Make no mistake - getting a huge deal like this concluded before the end of May is a sure-fire precursor to football spending the summer swimming in a paddling pool of £50 notes, panicking.

Nowhere will that be felt more keenly than at Real Madrid. If you believe the transfer tittle-tattle, Real also had a bid in for Neymar and were turned down. On top of that, the team have gone trophyless this season, manager Jose Mourinho is on the way out, and club president Florentino Perez is running again for re-election in less than three weeks.

In a famous episode of The Simpsons, Homer astounds Lisa by becoming the sanitation commissioner, and actually working hard. But as he explains: "I gotta work hard, honey. Daddy made a lot of crazy promises."

Perez should be able to relate to that, and unlike Homer, he has a knack for delivering. In winning the presidency in 2000, he promised the club Luis Figo from Barcelona - and somehow pulled it off. Other Galacticos followed each summer - Zinedine Zidane, then Ronaldo, then David Beckham. When Perez returned for a second term, he broke the bank to land Cristiano Ronaldo.

In other words, the only thing that could stop him from landing a huge transfer this summer would be a fatal blockage in his coronary artery.

Neymar's off the table - so where else can Florentino shop?

Colombian striker Radamel Falcao might have fitted the bill neatly, but reports suggest he could be a Monaco player before the week is out (and we'll come back to the principality team shortly). Wayne Rooney? His stock has fallen too sharply. Mario Goetze? Nope, Bayern have already nabbed him. Luis Suarez? He has the quality (and indeed is reportedly the subject of Real interest, according to the tabloids), but comes with more baggage than a fully-loaded Airbus A380.

No - as a marquee deal, there are only two options: Edinson Cavani, the Napoli striker, and Gareth Bale.

The lure of the Bernabeu is obvious enough, but Cavani is also a target for the newly-moneyed European elite.

If Monaco, backed by a Russian tycoon, wrap up the Falcao deal, they'll have spent £110m this summer already - not bad for a side who've just won promotion to Ligue 1.

Paris Saint-Germain have spent lavishly each summer and will be tempted to do so again, especially if Real succeed in pinching their manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Like Real Madrid, Manchester City are a potent cocktail of trophyless and rich. Chelsea, meanwhile, once they appoint Mourinho for a second time, will have hired a man who never knowingly underspends.

All have at one stage or another been linked with Cavani. It will not be a straightforward deal to pull off. Which leaves Bale.

The same Bale who has just been buttered up by Real's sporting director Zidane as being 'more than good enough' for the club, and whose current Spurs team are to miss out on Champions League football for at least another term. The Bale whose stock has never been higher, and who is not believed to be desperately agitating for a move. The Welshman who Spurs, if their hand is forced, will look to sell off to anyone except a Premier League rival.

If Real Madrid throw enough cash and resources at Bale, they could land him this summer. Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman and notoriously tough bargainer, can recline, put his feet up on his desk, and wait for a silly offer.

Real would get their man, and it would be at least a few weeks before anyone notices that he's a bit too much like Cristiano to add anything new to the line-up.

That's transfermageddon for you. Even some of the traditionally more stable teams will be getting busy. David Moyes will be keen to shape Manchester United in his own image (judging by reports linking him to the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Luka Modric and Marouane Fellaini, Moyes' own image is neither dour nor Scottish).

Even Arsene Wenger, by all accounts, has a £70m 'war-chest', and may yet not choose to prepare for 'war' by snapping up a few tin cans, hunkering down in his underground bunker beneath the Emirates, only emerging before the start of the season to quickly sell off his best player.

Neymar shed tears in the build-up to his final game for Santos against Flamengo last night. It was football's equivalent of a butterfly flapping his wings in Brazil, because the ramifications across Europe could be enormous.

Mark Patterson - @Mark_Eurosport


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I want to thank the fans of Santos for these incredible nine years. My feeling for the club and the fans will never change. It is eternal! Only a club like Santos FC could give me everything I have experienced on and off the field. I thank the wonderful fans who supported me even in the most difficult moments. Titles, goals, dribbling, celebrations and songs that fans created for me will be forever in my heart..." Neymar says goodbye.

FOREIGN VIEW: Zlatan Ibrahimovic finished off PSG's successful Ligue 1 campaign by chesting in his 30th goal of the season in a 3-1 win at Lorient. It made him the first player to reach the landmark since Jean-Pierre Papin for Marseille in 1989-90. As Zlatan himself put it before the start of the season: "I'll have to learn about [the Ligue 1 players], but for sure they know who I am."

COMING UP: The Championship play-off final. Watford v Crystal Palace is live from 15:00 at Wembley - the winner gets four years of parachute payments.

There's also more cricket from Headingley, and continued coverage from the French Open.

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