surinenglish

A LOOK AT LA LIGA

The usual pre-season antics

Pogba has joined the United squad in Australia.
Pogba has joined the United squad in Australia. / EPA/AAP
  • Paul Pogba, Neymar and Gareth Bale are all handling their potential moves away very differently

There's a whole circus surrounding football and there seems to be more time devoted to speculating than covering the actual games. Will he? Won't he? And if he does, where and when will he do it?

Neymar has gone AWOL, Gareth Bale got screamed at for actually turning up for training, and Paul Pogba jetted from America to Manchester to Australia. These are three different characters who court and avoid the publicity in totally different ways.

What are the chances of someone being perfectly placed in the trees of Central Park when Paul Pogba is going through a strenuous workout just days before pre-season starts? His Instagram feed shows that he's putting in the miles, showing a top-class attitude. It's just coincidence that he's in the USA on commercial business with his sponsor Adidas and he's decked toe to head in their merchandise.

Bale is a totally different animal. He shunned publicity for his summer wedding, asking guests to sign a confidentiality agreement. His morals are so strong, he didn't invite his father-in-law who has been up to some shady business. He looked bemused when the bloke sitting in a deck chair outside the Real Madrid training ground screamed 'desagradecido'.

Now the big criticism of the Welshman is that he's made little effort in mastering Spanish, so he probably didn't understand that he was accused of being 'ungrateful'. It's a new one, a player whose goals have won the Champions League and Spanish Cup in recent seasons should be abused for wanting to stay faithful to a contract and turning up without fuss for the first day of training.

Neymar didn't suffer such abuse as he just didn't turn up! PSG sporting director Leonardo said: "I spoke to him and his entourage. The position is clear for everyone. Neymar can leave PSG, if there is an offer which suits everyone. But up to now, we do not know if anyone wants to buy him, or at what price."

This prompted a poll in the French media where 79% said they wanted Neymar to be sold. Even coach Thomas Tuchel said he could live without him.

So, what happens next? Does Neymar return to Barcelona? Do they really want him and his baggage back? Brazil proved that they can thrive without him by ending a 12-year wait to win the Copa America this summer.

I changed my mind about him as a player when I commentated on PSG. I used to think he was entertaining without any product, but he's weighed in with 51 goals in 57 games. However, the more successful he is, the higher maintenance he becomes.

As for Paul Pogba, everyone appreciates he has talent; unfortunately it's masked by the perceived persona. He recorded his best-ever goalscoring return last season despite being stripped of the captaincy and labelled 'a virus' by José Mourinho.

The problem appears to be his minders. Mino Raiola is already one of the wealthiest agents in the industry, but he stands to gain many more millions if his client makes a move. For him, Real Madrid would be the perfect fit.

To get Pogba to Madrid would probably means Gareth Bale leaving. When he played no part in the final three Liga games of the season, he was getting the message from Zinedine Zidane that he wasn't part of his plans. It was a little like a year ago when Bale was left out of the Champions League Final team only to bounce back as a substitute to score two crucial goals.

This summer he was made to feel unwelcome but he was back for day one, driving himself into training, looking perplexed at the angry man in a deck chair as he entered the gates.

Now Bale is in Montreal where the media will be quizzing management about his future, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is already fending off questions about Pogba in Perth, and PSG are unsure whether Neymar will be on the fast plane to China.

They give us something to gossip about, sell sports papers and generate click-bait but the chances are stacked in favour of all three staying put and having to see out their half-a-million-dollar-a-week contracts. The circus continues!