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 helpers step up to the tee at first women’s golf tournament

Updated 1 min 44 sec ago

Saudi helpers step up to the tee at first women’s golf tournament

  • Volunteers will have the chance to step inside the ropes and get up close with the sport’s leading players

JEDDAH: Saudi volunteers will be able to write their names into the history books by helping at the first-ever Saudi Ladies International professional golf tournament.

Competition organizers are looking to recruit hundreds of people to help with the smooth running of the four-day event from March 19-22 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).

Volunteers will have the chance to step inside the ropes and get up close with the sport’s leading players, including Order of Merit winner Beth Allen, three-time Ladies European Tour (LET) winner Carly Booth and Solheim Cup hero Azahara Munoz, as they compete for $1 million in prize money. 

The LET tournament in Saudi Arabia will mark the first time that professional female golfers have played competitively in the country, and comes hot on the heels of last month’s triumphant men’s equivalent, the Saudi International, won by Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.

Online registration is now open for the debut event’s volunteers’ program.

Volunteers will be briefed before the event and receive a tournament uniform to wear while they work.

Marshals, including traveling, static, crossing and transitional positions, will be required for the tournament. Mobile scoreboard operators and walking scorers are among other roles that will offer volunteers a unique insight into the world-class event.

Mike Oliver, event director at Golf Saudi, said: “For the first year of this event, we are offering volunteers a chance to be part of history, working at the first professional women’s golf event to be held in the country.

“Volunteers, from both Saudi Arabia and abroad, will play a key role in helping us deliver a successful inaugural tournament,” he said.

A certificate of service will be presented to volunteers at the completion of the tournament.

As a bonus, volunteers will have their photo taken with the 2020 ladies winner during the prize presentation — a moment that will be seen by a worldwide audience via live broadcasts.