Insider Notes: Neymar accepts only Olympics, no Copa; Feilhaber's future
After making a last-ditch effort with Barcelona officials last week, Neymar’s people say they now accept that he will not be able to play in this summer’s Copa América Centenario, and will only represent Brazil in the Olympics.
Barcelona, Brazil and Neymar's camp had been engaging in a back and forth, with the club adamant about Neymar only playing in one competition, despite the player wishing to represent his country in both. The writing was on the wall late last week when the Copa America official website removed Neymar from all of its promotions and replaced him with Brazil teammates David Luiz and Kaká.
So with Neymar out, it seemed worthwhile to check on the likelihood of other stars appearing in the Copa América. Barring injuries, of course, here’s what I’ve learned: Lionel Messi (Argentina), Javier "Chicharito" Hernández (Mexico) and Luis Suárez (Uruguay) are all slated to participate, while James Rodríguez (Colombia) and Alexis Sánchez (Chile) are maybes.
The Chileans, in particular, are less fired up about this special Copa América, because they think it’s taking away from the luster of the regular Copa América they won last summer. But everyone is also aware that there’s real commercial value in participating in this summer’s tournament in front of so many eyeballs in the Americas.
Here are a couple more insider items from around Planet Fútbol:
Could Feilhaber leave Sporting KC?
Sporting Kansas City is off to the best start in MLS at 4-1-0, and Benny Feilhaber was one of three finalists for the MLS MVP award last season. But Feilhaber is out of contract at the end of this season and could sign a pre-contract outside of MLS as soon as July 1. I’m told that talks started between Feilhaber and the club nearly a year ago, but they have yet to reach a deal and are not currently in negotiations.
There’s still time, of course. Feilhaber, 31, made a guaranteed $362,187.50 last season, according to MLS Players Union documents, and he would like to double that salary. That would put him in the same salary area as that of teammates Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza.
Jesse Gonzalez: Mexico or USA?
The U.S. men’s national team has a legitimate goalkeeper concern for the first time in years, and there’s an ongoing question over the national team future of 20-year-old FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse González. He’s eligible for both Mexico and the U.S., and he was set to come into the U.S. January camp until he got cold feet at the last second and pulled out.
I’m told that González wants to play for the U.S. but feels like he’d be betraying his family if he didn’t play for Mexico. He has played for Mexican youth teams but is not yet cap-tied. Keep following this story as the year moves forward.