Neymar recants and midday matches

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Alarm bells were ringing in the Marca offices on Monday. The hotline to Florentino’s 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 doesn’t play for Real Madrid, has never played for Real Madrid and hasn’t been signed up to play for Real Madrid dared to opine that Real Madrid isn’t the best team in the world and doesn’t have the best player, either.

That particular footballer was young upstart Neymar, who happens to be the very marketable apple of Florentino Pérez’s eye. Neymar’s crime was to give the reprehensible opinion that Barcelona are “the best team in the world and they’ve got the world’s best player.”

The Brazilian billboard was talking to FIFA’s website ahead of the World Club Cup. Although a little early – the tournament isn't until December – 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 Marca’s world.

Even AS tutted at Neymar’s glaring football error, Tomás Roncero lamenting that “each day he shows more signs of immaturity” with the added suggestion that Neymar was being “manipulated” 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 Wednesday’s friendly between Germany and Brazil. Marca’s man didn’t let the side down – by the looks of the photo in the paper, collaring the rebellious youngster in a hotel corridor – and got the kid to confess that Real Madrid were “a great team, this year they can win everything with the players they have,” and that “Madrid are a great club with a lot of history, one of the best, no doubt.”

"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 – Rayo Vallecano v Mallorca – will create in the Far East, with the response of viewers likely to be “Rayo who?”, “Where’s Messi?” and “Why does the stadium only have three sides?”

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 blog’s attention but Spain are apparently in action in Bari on Wednesday night in an all-important match that is no ordinary friendly. That’s certainly the message from the Spanish camp, anyway. LLL, for one, doesn’t believe a word of it as nine of Spain’s starters are likely to be in action on Sunday for the Spanish Super Cup – a considerably bigger fish to fry than a pre-season amble against the Azzurri.

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