Skip to main content

Neymar recants and midday matches

Alarm bells were ringing in the Marca offices on Monday. The hotline to FlorentinoâÂÂs office was flashing red. The security doors slammed shut to prevent anyone from leaving the premises. The unthinkable had happened. Marca was at DEFCON 1.

Somewhere across the universe a footballer who doesnâÂÂt play for Real Madrid, has never played for Real Madrid and hasnâÂÂt been signed up to play for Real Madrid dared to opine that Real Madrid isnâÂÂt the best team in the world and doesnâÂÂt have the best player, either.

That particular footballer was young upstart Neymar, who happens to be the very marketable apple of Florentino PérezâÂÂs eye. NeymarâÂÂs crime was to give the reprehensible opinion that Barcelona are âÂÂthe best team in the world and theyâÂÂve got the worldâÂÂs best player.âÂÂ

The Brazilian billboard was talking to FIFAâÂÂs website ahead of the World Club Cup. Although a little early â the tournament isn't until December â it might be seen as a relevant forum for sharing his thoughts on possible opponents for his club side Santos. But this was still unacceptable behaviour in MarcaâÂÂs world.

Even AS tutted at NeymarâÂÂs glaring football error, Tomás Roncero lamenting that âÂÂeach day he shows more signs of immaturityâ with the added suggestion that Neymar was being âÂÂmanipulatedâ by FIFA in making such controversial comments.

Marca weren't going to let such slander go unpunished, dispatching a writer armed with thumbscrews to Stuttgart, where Neymar is currently staying ahead of WednesdayâÂÂs friendly between Germany and Brazil. MarcaâÂÂs man didnâÂÂt let the side down â by the looks of the photo in the paper, collaring the rebellious youngster in a hotel corridor â and got the kid to confess that Real Madrid were âÂÂa great team, this year they can win everything with the players they have,â and that âÂÂMadrid are a great club with a lot of history, one of the best, no doubt.âÂÂ

"What have I said now?"

With that terrible Barça-biased wrong now righted, the focus of the paper then changed to the publishing of the new fixture lists, which feature the Primera games over their usual three-day spread but now in nine separate slots, rather than the previous seven. Matches are now scheduled for 6pm, 8pm and 10pm on Saturday, then noon, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm and 10pm on Sunday, with the 9pm match of doom on Monday night.

LLL largely approves of the changes, with the early-bird blog appreciating the Sunday noon kick-offs, which are designed to please the Asian market. That said, it remains to be seen what interest the first match â Rayo Vallecano v Mallorca â will create in the Far East, with the response of viewers likely to be âÂÂRayo who?âÂÂ, âÂÂWhereâÂÂs Messi?â and âÂÂWhy does the stadium only have three sides?âÂÂ

FFT Travel guide:Rayo Vallecano

However, it's less than happy with the matches finishing around about midnight on Sunday, with sleep-deprived Spain set to be even surlier than normal on a Monday morning.

It almost escaped the blogâÂÂs attention but Spain are apparently in action in Bari on Wednesday night in an all-important match that is no ordinary friendly. ThatâÂÂs certainly the message from the Spanish camp, anyway. LLL, for one, doesnâÂÂt believe a word of it as nine of SpainâÂÂs starters are likely to be in action on Sunday for the Spanish Super Cup â a considerably bigger fish to fry than a pre-season amble against the Azzurri.

FEATUREJames Horncastle previews Italy v Spain