As one of the most well respected reporters in the football related media today, I am regularly accepted into the inner sanctum of the transfer world. I receive invites to numerous functions with some of the highest profile movers and shakers in the sport, and that’s a big part of how I manage to keep delivering exclusive after exclusive.
This week has been no different, and the information that I received at a recent soirée will have Liverpool supporters biting their nails and praying for the Premier League transfer window to slam shut.
The event was billed as a high stakes poker tournament on a very expensive yacht, owned by an ex footballer with a lot of time and money on his hands. It was by invitation only and not for the first time, I found myself rubbing shoulders with some very important people including ex pros and agents.
One of the people that I found myself talking to is a former Real Madrid employee who still maintains links with the club, and he has it on good authority that while most people think that Madrid have their sights set on Mohamed Salah, it’s actually Salah’s teammate Sadio Mane who is the focus of their attention!
“Madrid are trying to reinvent themselves and having sold Cristiano Ronaldo, they are looking for dynamic attacking players who have the ability to light up La Liga for years to come,” he informed me as we shared a plate of very questionably flavoured canapés. “They want players who are young enough to represent the club for many years to come, and already have experience in the Champions League. In Sadio Mane, they feel that there is a player who fits their new project perfectly” he went on to say.
The conversation was initially interrupted as the poker tournament began, but I seized the opportunity to dig a little deeper as I took a seat next to him at the bar later that evening. By this time he had knocked back quite a few vodka martinis and was more than willing to go into more detail.
“It is true that Madrid have considered bidding for both Neymar and Salah, but despite Julen Lopetegui being the new Manager of the team, the person with the most influence is the Captain, Sergio Ramos. My contact says that Ramos doesn’t want either of them at the club,”
And when I pushed for more detail, his response was shocking.
“According to my contact, Ramos was not impressed with the behaviour and attitude shown by Salah in the Champions League Final. He feels that Salah doesn’t have the cojones to fight for the shirt of Madrid.”
I nearly knocked over my glass of water in amazement, before he continued.
“And Neymar? Well let’s just say that Ramos sees himself as a master of the dark arts and the Brazilian as an expensive circus act!”
He then turned his attention back to Mane.
“The club have been impressed with his output over the last couple of seasons at Liverpool and like the fact that he is versatile, works hard and can score spectacular goals. They like exciting players and see him and Eden Hazard of Chelsea as two players who meet that criteria”.
By this point my new found Spanish friend was becoming incoherent having downed one too many of his favoured cocktails, but before he departed for the toilet he revealed that according to his friend at Real, the club values Mane at around £100m and are considering making a formal offer very soon.
This prompted me to get straight on the phone to one of my most trusted sources at Liverpool and see if he knew of this interest. And of course, he had the inside track.
“The Liverpool hierarchy are aware of the interest from Madrid, but have zero interest in selling,” I was assured. “And if they genuinely think that £100m would be enough to get him, then they’re loco!” he continued with a giggle, sounding oddly smug with himself for using the only Spanish word that he knows in the correct context.
As I was being ushered off the yacht he texted me to advise that Liverpool have offered Mane a new contract and are confident that they can resist any interest from Spain. Liverpool supporters will be praying that they can and I will, of course, keep you all fully updated on the matter.