Not once, not twice, but three times. That's the amount of times this summer that Manchester United have been linked with a superstar player, happy to use the club to secure a bumper new contract from their employers. By now, those at Old Trafford must be feeling an acute sense of Déjà-vu.
All throughout May, Dani Alves was content to tell anyone who would listen, that he had one foot in Barcelona, and the other, out of the club. United were cited as his likely destination and the club obligingly played the eager suitors. There was talk of an offer of a lucrative three-year contract for Alves, should he chose be wooed by Louis van Gaal.
The end result was entirely predictable. Faced with a backlash from their fans, the Barcelona board relented, tore up the one-year offer on the table, and gave the 32-year-old the long-term contract he demanded. In Spain, other prominent players began to take note.
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Next up, was Sergio Ramos. Like Alves, he too, was angry at a perceived lack of respect from his current club. And, just like Alves, he was not shy in voicing his concerns.
Ramos went one step further by publicly declaring that United were the English equivalent of Madrid. A stand-off between player and the Madrid hierarchy ensued. Once again, faced with the wrath of angry supporters, the club caved and Ramos received the £7 million-a-year contract he wanted, along with the captain's armband.
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Now, we have Neymar. 'Sources' leaked to The Guardian that he would be interested in a move to Manchester United. Tellingly none of the Spanish football papers have bothered to run with the story, proving that there is little credence to the rumour.
Indeed, a few days after, his agent was in Brazil assuring his legion of fans there, that the player had no intention of quitting his dream club.
Quelle suprise! Barcelona club-president Josep Maria Bartomeu has since issued a statement declaring that they will discuss Neymar's new contract in the coming months. And, as too often has been the case since Fergie's retirement, United are looking like a case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride. It is high time the United board stopped being led on a merry dance by players out to service their own ends.
Ironically, the one player linked with Old Trafford that they stand any hope of acquiring, is the man who kick-started the trend of flirting with United for financial gain. This, of course, being Cristiano Ronaldo, with Marca this week claiming he is 'not comfortable'.
By the end of the current season Ronaldo will be 32. And, Perez may be ready to cash in on his star player while his transfer-value is still high. By then (barring injury), Ronaldo should have surpassed Raul as the clubs all-time top-scorer. And could he be persuaded to return to the club that has purportedly 'remained in his heart'?
Who else will Manchester United sign before the close of the window? Let us know below!
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