Real Madrid and Barcelona may never have been truly serious about signing Paul Pogba and Neymar respectively during the now closed summer transfer window, with a sensational claim that both clubs were simply going through the motions for a charade and appeasement.
Real were linked with Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba all summer, with the player’s older brother Mathias even giving multiple soundbites to the Spanish media to talk up the possible switch from Old Trafford to the Bernabeu.
Barça, meanwhile, were expected to take Neymar back from Paris Saint-Germain just two years after he controversially quit the club in a world record €222m transfer.
Manchester United outwardly refused to sell Pogba, even more so after the early Premier League deadline prevented them from signing a replacement. But the Neymar negotiations between Barça and PSG appeared to continue until the final days of the Spanish window.
However, neither deal materialised before the 2 September transfer deadline.
The Daily Mail claims that United would have entertained selling had a serious offer from Real that was ‘comfortably’ in excess of their 2016 outlay - 90min has been able to verify that for months - but it simply never came. Los Blancos, they say, never had the ‘cash or conviction’ to make the transfer a reality.
Real had already spent around €300m on several signings early in the summer and later failed to raise further cash by not managing to sell the likes of Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, both of whom have remained in Madrid despite being expected to leave.
It was a similar situation at Camp Nou, where Barça spent around €250m on new players, most of which went on Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann. Only half that amount came back in.
There were rumours all summer of increasingly creative proposals designed to get Neymar back to Catalonia with minimal cash expense, but these were always flawed as they relied on unwilling participants heading in the opposite direction to make things work. The Mail notes that Barça equally never had the ready cash to meet the monetary aspect of such deals.
What is most interesting is that the report suggests both clubs were putting on a transfer charade when in reality they knew they were never going to sign Pogba or Neymar this summer.
In the increasingly political world of football transfers, the Mail explains that Real felt ‘obliged to show an interest’ in Pogba because he was coach Zinedine Zidane’s most coveted transfer target. Similarly, Barça’s ultimately hollow pursuit for Neymar was apparently for Lionel Messi.