Doubts remain for Barca and Madrid as chaotic window draws to a close

Zinedine Zidane. (Reuters)
Updated 30 August 2019

Doubts remain for Barca and Madrid as chaotic window draws to a close

  • Madrid started brightly against Celta Vigo before familiar scoring problems resurfaced at home to Real Valladolid

MADRID: Zinedine Zidane has said he will breathe a sigh of relief when the transfer window closes but Barcelona might need every minute until midnight on Monday to get a deal for Neymar finally done.

“I can’t wait for Sept. 2 so I don’t have to answer these questions anymore,” said Zidane last week.

“There’s still no agreement (with Paris Saint-Germain),” Barcelona director Jordi Bordas said on Tuesday. “We are negotiating and we are closer, but I can’t say more than that.”

At the start of the summer, it was Real Madrid rubbing their hands at the prospect of wholesale changes while Barca could justifiably believe the majority of their business was complete.

Frenkie de Jong arrived after his €75-million switch from Ajax was announced in January while Antoine Griezmann soon followed, with Atletico Madrid claiming that transfer had been agreed in March.

All that seemingly remained for Ernesto Valverde was some tinkering around the edges.

Madrid, though, were just getting started as €300 million spent appeared to pave the way for the sales of those Zidane wanted gone and perhaps more additions too.

Yet as the market enters its final straight, Madrid are the ones winding down while Barca turn their early jog into a sprint.

“Every time there is a transfer window, there is a lot of expectation and certain players like Neymar raise expectations too,” said Valverde last week.

Neither club appears to have benefitted from a haphazard couple of months, given both have dropped points in their opening two matches in La Liga.

Madrid started brightly against Celta Vigo before familiar scoring problems resurfaced at home to Real Valladolid.

“Zidane loses his immunity,” read the headline in Marca on Monday.

Barca lost to Athletic Bilbao on the season’s opening night, although bounced back by hammering Real Betis.

“After a defeat, there is always a big reaction,” said Griezmann, who scored twice at Camp Nou.

The success of their transfer dealings will be judged deeper into the campaign but already the sense is of Zidane and Valverde playing their own part in what has become another political summer.

Zidane wanted Paul Pogba in and Gareth Bale out but neither have materialized, perhaps as much due to the complexity of the deals as any failure from Madrid to commit to them.

But two consecutive starting line-ups without a single signing indicates Zidane is not impressed, a message made more resounding by Bale, and James Rodriguez, being ushered back in.

“The players I have are the ones that are here,” Zidane said.


Saudi Cup ‘double or nothing’ with two horses in $20m race for leading agent Ted Voute

Updated 8 min 54 sec ago

Saudi Cup ‘double or nothing’ with two horses in $20m race for leading agent Ted Voute

  • Voute has been responsible for the purchase of six horses featuring in this weekend’s Saudi Cup meet
  • Since 1986 Voute has produced horses for the world’s premier sales on behalf of the some of the best-known breeders

LONDON: Securing a win in Saturday's $20 million Saudi Cup would be one of British bloodstock agent Ted Voute’s “greatest” achievements, the leading consignor said in the build-up to the world’s richest race.

Voute has been responsible for the purchase of six horses featuring in this weekend’s Saudi Cup meet, including two in the headline race.

Mjjack, a recent winner of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup, as well as Great Scot, were bought from the UK for owner Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdul Aziz.

“Great Scot gets in (to the Saudi Cup) by virtue of being the highest-rated horse in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I bought him late last year from Tom Dascombe in England. He hasn’t started there yet, but he’s a lovely horse,” Voute told Arab News.

“The other horse, Mjjack, I bought a couple of years ago. He won the King’s Cup (on Feb. 8), which gave him a free place, so I’m particularly proud of those two runners.

“It would be right up there if I bought the first Saudi Cup winner, it would be one of the greatest things I had ever done,” he added.

Since 1986 Voute has produced horses for the world’s premier sales on behalf of the some of the best-known breeders. In the past three decades, his consistent results in the sales ring and on the track have confirmed him as one of Europe’s leading consignors.

Voute has also bought several horses for another Saudi owner, Prince A.A. Faisal, including Mishriff, which runs in the Saudi Derby, one of the races going off before the Saudi Cup.

“From the prince’s point of view, Mishriff is named after a good friend of his who died and it would mean an immense amount to him (if the horse won),” he said. “It would be a wonderful story if, in his first race back as a three-year-old, he wins the Saudi derby as a preparation race to a Classic run.”

With several clients in Saudi Arabia, Voute is well placed to comment on the achievement by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, in setting up a top-class racing meet in such a short time.

“It’s amazing, really, I don’t think there has been a day with that much prize money in history. It has definitely grabbed people’s attention,” he said. “I was in a taxi from the airport with the trainer of Maximum Security, and (he said) he got a passport for the first time to travel outside the US to be in Saudi Arabia, which I thought was fantastic.

“To think this was only an idea not even a year ago. I saw Prince Bandar at Royal Ascot, and I think that’s where (Saudi Arabia) made the decision — and it’s just unbelievable what they’ve done from June to now. A lot of wealthy owners will venture out to Saudi Arabia and see what a wonderful country it is.

“It will show people they can travel in winter and pick up these sorts of races and prize money; it will really put Saudi Arabia on the calendar as a stepping stone to one of the European Classics,” he said.