By Tim Stannard
Messi confined to quarters as Barca's GOAT refuses to return to preseason training with his legal case looking less secure
That is the sound of Florentino Perez's office microwave going off, as it signals the readiness of another bowl of tasty popcorn for the Real Madrid president to cheerfully snack on.
The reason for Florentino's chuckling chirpiness is the ever-developing cluster-you-know-what at the accursed rivals at the Camp Nou.
Monday saw the return to training of Real Madrid's players. And that's it. No drama. But at Barcelona, the club's footballers went back to work with one person missing - Lionel Messi.
Over the weekend, the M-Exit narrative went up a gear. Messi was a no-show for the very necessary COVID-19 tests on Sunday, meaning that he is physically unable to go back to training as per protocols. Whether through a technicality or a strike, Messi is no longer available to Barcelona.
At the same time, LaLiga sided with Barcelona in the big legal battle over Messi's emancipation. The question is whether Messi's exit door closed ten days after the end of the original date of the 2019-20 season or the adjusted 'dark timeline' date. LaLiga says it is the former and it would require either Messi or another club to pay over $700 million for the release clause, before it would recognize the transfer.
On a day that the US Open gets underway in tennis, it is very much advantage Barcelona. The club holds the current legal ground and has a player who is going to lose some fan support by refusing to train.
Messi's agent and father, Jorge Messi, is expected in Barcelona either today or tomorrow for a meeting with Josep Bartomeu. However, there is currently no wiggle room for discussion. Messi's clan says he can go for free, Barcelona say the opposite.
The Sports Burst live show will bring the latest news on the Messi saga and Hope Solo joins the team to opine if Messi has made a big mistake with his no-show.
Head to our beIN SPORTS USA Facebook page or beIN XTRA channel at 12PM ET.
Neymar pledges allegiance to PSG but drops Nike
A wise Neymar has realized that the world is not equipped to deal with a Messi and Neymar transfer saga at the same time and removed himself from any speculation.
A statement from the footballer confirmed that he would be staying at PSG for the upcoming season - two games in for most other teams in Ligue 1 - but none for PSG so far.
In words which a skeptical Sports Burst doubts were penned by Neymar himself, the Brazilian decreed that "if people were doubting the presence of PSG as a great European club, those doubts died in Lisbon."
"I like this idea of doing everything to leave my name in the history books of my club," added Neymar with some flourish.
However, that doesn't mean that Neymar's entourage aren't going to be busy over the next few months. The weekend saw the news that Neymar and Nike were splitting up after a 13-year partnership. 'Jacque's Super Sport Kit!' of the 13th arrondissement of Paris is the current front runner to pick up the deal.
PSG is back in action on Thursday September 10 in its Ligue 1 season opener against Lens. The mission will be to chase down Nice, which is at the top of the table with two wins from two under Patrick Vieira.
Dawson's Creek star joins up with Manchester United
Former US TV teen heart-throb, Donny van de Beek, was once a transfer target for Real Madrid and Barcelona - last week in Barca's case - but the Dutch winger is on the brink of joining Manchester United in a $53 million deal with Ajax.
In a wonderful case of coincidence, Lazio has confirmed that Ciro Immobile won't be going anywhere. The 2019-20 Golden Shoe winner, who bagged 36 goals for the Serie A side, is staying on with Lazio in a deal lasting to 2025.
Meanwhile, the sprightly Zlatan Ibrahimovic has arrived in Milan to sign up for another season in San Siro.