Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said that he would prefer for his team, Real Madrid, not to sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.
Madrid president Florentino Perez has made numerous attempts over the years to sign Neymar, even after his controversial transfer from Santos to La Liga rivals Barcelona in 2013.
Since Neymar joined PSG in a record €222 million deal last summer, Perez, club captain Sergio Ramos and Madrid’s Brazil internationals Casemiro and Marcelo have all spoken about the possibility of the Brazilian playing at the Bernabeu.
Rajoy, speaking to AS ahead of Madrid hosting PSG in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday, said he believed in the team’s current strike force of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I wouldn’t like to see Neymar in the white shirt,” Rajoy said. “I don’t know about [Kylian Mbappe] but Bale, Benzema and Cristiano were great, and within a few months, people are doubting them. We should have a bit more perspective. I believe in them.”
— AS (@diarioas) February 13, 2018
Madrid’s disastrous season has seen Zinedine Zidane’s side in fourth place in La Liga, 17 points adrift of runaway leaders Barceona, while they were also eliminated from the Copa del Rey by neighbours Leganes.
Rajoy admitted that PSG’s form so far this year was much better, but recalled that Madrid often saved their season by lifting themselves in Europe.
“Thinking rationally, you might believe they will give us a thrashing,” he said. “But in these games anything can happen. We cannot forget this is Madrid and the Champions League is their competition — even more when they are well behind in La Liga and out of the Copa. They are the same players as last year — a team which has won three of the last four Champions Leagues. I think we can knock [PSG] out.”
Meanwhile, Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, has told Tuttosport that his client is as valuable as Neymar, but the reported Manchester United target’s price tag is meaningless as he has no intention of leaving the Bernabeu.
“Bale is worth as much as Neymar, €222m,” Barnett said. “But he is very happy at Madrid. He loves it at Madrid.”
Ronaldo’s future also had no bearing on Bale’s future plans, Barnett said, as he did not need the Portuguese to leave in order to be acknowledged as a key player in Madrid’s team.
“Gareth does not need Cristiano Ronaldo to leave. Even at the moment, he is a star at Real Madrid,” Barnett said.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan