Following a controversial soundbite from Gerard Pique last week, Jason Pettigrove questions where the latest Neymar saga has opened another can of worms at Barcelona.
Just when you think that all of the furore surrounding Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona has died down, yet more stories come out of the woodwork.
The seemingly eternal triangle between the three parties dominated the transfer landscape in the last window and, because of an inability to close a deal for the Brazilian to move back to Barca, the likelihood of it starting up again is high.
Here we are, two full months before the January window opens, and speculation is again rife as to a potential move back to the Camp Nou.
Gerard Pique has a lot to answer for on this occasion. During the past week, the Catalan was quoted as saying some senior members of the first team had agreed to defer some of their salary payments in order for the club to be able to afford Neymar.
It’s being dressed up as nothing more than the likes of Suarez, Messi and Pique getting the band back together, but the reality seems much more like another dressing room power play. Letting the powers that be know who is really in charge.
Certainly, there’s something bubbling under the surface, as recent exchanges between players and board have been played out in full glare of the media. This latest soundbite gives more credence to the rumours that it’s the senior players running things behind the scenes, rather than Ernesto Valverde.
Even though the Basque has rebuffed such a notion, he was forced to admit in the press conference prior to the Levante game that he had no idea the players had put forward the idea of wage deferment. That must be unique in football?
The machinations of any deal are always fraught, of course, with one party or another seemingly unwilling to bend to such an extent as to hinder their negotiating position.
However, as we’ve seen on many occasions, with agents pulling the strings and effectively deciding where their client’s will be placed, clubs are often forced to suck it up and accede to the whims of what can sometimes be described as unscrupulous characters. And that’s being charitable.
But when has there ever been a situation when senior first-team players had agreed to wait for their monies, purely in order for a player to be signed? It’s unheard of.
Moreover, it opens up another can of worms entirely. Ousmane Dembele and Ivan Rakitic were two names that were thrown into the hat in the summer, as players who could be used as leverage in any deal.
It was alleged that neither wished to sign for the Parisiens but how must they be feeling now, knowing that their current team-mates were willing to do whatever it took to seal a deal with Neymar?
Were they even behind the pressure that was allegedly being exerted on the pair to do a deal with Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
It’s an accepted fact that football dressing rooms are often fractured and no one truly gets on all of the time. Players also accept that being moved on with little notice is part and parcel of the game. But it’s unlikely to have ever come at the behest of long-standing colleagues.
Even if senior players weren’t explicitly involved with any ‘plot’ to oust certain players, they would’ve surely realised the consequences of their actions.
The issue facing Barcelona now is what do they do about it. If Pique faces censure for his comments, will he once again suggest that the board have an agenda against the players in terms of what’s filtered out to the media by them?
If the board sit on their laurels and do nothing, does that infer that they were in agreement with any wage deferral suggestion in the first place, potentially putting them in direct conflict with other first-team squad players.
It’s another mess that could’ve been completely avoided and, yet, it threatens to overshadow how well Barca have recovered from their awful start to the season. The blaugrana have slipped into a higher gear with consummate ease and, both in La Liga and the Champions League, they’re well placed at this point for more successes.
What a shame that such on-field excellence won’t be talked about over the next eight weeks or so…