A LOOK AT LA LIGA
The silly season has started before the soccer season has reconvened and if you believe all you read, Newcastle United could have the most star-studded forward line-up in European football next season.
It's easy and lazy journalism: use the name of the soon-to-be eligible divorcee from their footballing marriage and link them to a club that's about to be taken over by billionaires.
So, according to "sources", Philippe Coutinho, Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez could be numbers eight, nine and ten at St James' next season. If not Geordieland, then Merseyside - where Everton have cash to splash and a high-profile manager.
I'll let you in on a trade secret here: the "sources" are usually the players' agency who befriends a story-hungry journalist to get his name linked with major clubs by headline association.
For once, the representatives are having to work for their cut of the cash. Previously, they just negotiated their percentage of the millions of euros involved in the mega deals. It should be easy to find a suitor for talents like Coutinho, Bale and James yet it's proving almost impossible. Now they're having to work hard for their clients.
Bale looks at ease as he mimics the critics who claim he's more dedicated to golf than Real Madrid. He still has two years left on his contract with the Spanish giants on a reported 600,000 euros per week. He's in no great hurry to pack his cases so club and agent have some work to do if he's to move mansions.
Two years ago, Coutinho was the most sought-after footballer in the world. After a long chase, Barcelona wooed him to the Camp Nou and initially all went swimmingly after his 160-million-euro deal. Now, after a mixed season on-loan at Bayern Munich, his parent club is facing writing off more than 100 million euros.
At the 2014 World Cup, Diego Maradona claimed that James Rodríguez deserved the Golden Ball ahead of Lionel Messi. The Colombian claimed the Golden Boot and that was enough to convince Real Madrid to invest heavily in the next Galáctico on a generous long-term deal. He still has a year to serve, but the signs aren't good after a two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich and just four league starts on his return to La Liga this season.
So, three of the biggest names in football will be hyped up by their "people" over the next few weeks in hope that lots of media exposure will lead to a summer transfer. The more the name appears in the newspapers, the greater the chance of a deal.
Of course, there is an alternative way for the player to win back his reputation. They could play their way back into vogue. The biggest obstacle has been winning over the fans - with no home fans, that's one less opponent to win over.
Who knows, maybe the Brazilian, Welshman and Colombian could use the remaining games of the season to restore their stature? Stranger things have happened.