Just as much action off of the pitch as there is on it in La Liga this week.

With the January transfer window just a couple of months away, the rumours are already flying around, and after Gerard Pique’s latest interview, the possibility of Neymar finally returning to Barcelona draws ever closer.

From what was understood during the summer, Barca had made a concerted effort to bring the Brazilian back to the Camp Nou, with the player himself going out on a limb to acknowledge that his future was away from the Parc des Princes.

For reasons that still remain relatively unclear, the deal didn’t happen, though it was never off of the table and, as far as can be gathered, is still not completely shelved.

To understand from Pique that he and other senior players in the dressing room were prepared to defer part of their salary in order that Barcelona didn’t fall foul of Financial Fair Play, really puts an entirely different spin on the deal.

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 31: Gerard Pique of FC Barcelona looks on prior to the start the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Estadio Reyno de Navarra on August 31, 2019 in Pamplona, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

The machinations of some deals would probably make the general public’s eyes water if they truly knew the ins and outs of every transfer. Football, being the murky business it is, will certainly have some skeletons in the closet when it comes to payments to agents and/or other sweeteners.

But having potential playing colleagues involving themselves in a deal, particularly one that is as high profile as Neymar’s, is unheard of.

One can infer that the same offer would be made again in January if the possibility remains of the Brazilian returning to the club. Quite where that leaves those players who would normally play in his position, or those that would need to be sold to cover the outlay, is unclear.

Although the Catalans are top of the pile in Spain, their form until recently hasn’t been the best, and surely the club could’ve done without such coverage. Particularly as Ernesto Valverde admitted he knew nothing about it.


No sign of Bale again as Los Blancos draw blank

In Madrid, Real have worries of their own, relating to outgoing players rather than incoming.

Los Blancos made a real song and dance about bringing Mariano Diaz back to the club, signed for €25m when Julen Lopetegui was in charge, whilst namesake Brahim was also supposed to set the Santiago Bernabeu alight.

Neither have really been given a chance, particularly under Zinedine Zidane’s stewardship, and the emergence of Rodrygo Goes means that the latter has no immediate possibility of breaking through.

On a more senior level, Zidane’s relationship with Gareth Bale appears to have hit the buffers again. Despite the Welshman being fully fit for some games, the Frenchman has refused to play him, and whilst he has the right to name any XI he chooses as coach of the side, leaving Bale out smacks of arrogance from the Frenchman.

Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane (L) looks at Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale (R) during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Real Valladolid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on August 24, 2019. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

Real Madrid are clearly a much better side with Gareth Bale in it. He adds pace up front, gives them width when required, scores goals, assists on a regular basis…

Frankly, it beggars belief that you would keep such a talent warming the bench, and it hurts no one but Zidane himself and the club more widely.

Johnathan Barnett, Bale’s long-time agent, has already come out fighting, and suggested that his client is going nowhere and is more than happy with his lot in Madrid.

Bale’s body language suggests otherwise, but he’s already refused to leave once before, and the situation could turn very ugly soon if it develops into a game of brinkmanship.


Simeone’s striker dilemma

Neighbours Atletico just need to find their scoring boots.

With no real dramas to concern themselves with behind the scenes, Diego Simeone and his staff can concentrate on honing his players’ craft on it.

Before the game against Sevilla had been played, the Rojiblancos had scored just 11 goals in 11 La Liga games. Only five of the bottom six in the division had less before the games in week twelve kicked off.

VITORIA-GASTEIZ, SPAIN - MARCH 30: Diego Costa of Atletico Madrid celebrates with his teammates Alvaro Morata of Atletico Madrid after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between Deportivo Alaves and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio de Mendizorroza on March 30, 2019 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Fortunately, the best defence in the division has kept them out of trouble.

Jan Oblak is already well on the way to yet another Zamora Trophy for least amount of goals conceded in the Spanish top flight.

Indeed, it would be his fifth consecutive gong if he were to stay in first place which is a phenomenal achievement.

Mario Hermoso, Felipe and Kieran Trippier have slotted into the back four like hand-in-glove, with the midfield as solid as ever. The only problem is up front where the Diego Costa/Alvaro Morata partnership clearly isn’t working.

Angel Correa, ostensibly third choice in attack, has given Simeone food for thought, for he’s been perfectly complementary for either Costa or Morata.

His movement has allowed either to go to work in the spaces he’s created, whilst his associative play has been first class too.

If they can add goals to their defensive excellence, Atleti will be a threat to both Real and Barcelona, and make it a genuine three-horse race again in 2019/20.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion