Real Madrid players have been talking to Neymar to persuade the Paris Saint-Germain star to join them at the Bernabeu, sources have told ESPN FC.
PSG sporting director Leonardo has confirmed that his club would sell the Brazil forward for the right price this summer, and officials at both Madrid and Barcelona are trying to negotiate a deal.
Meanwhile, anti-Neymar banners were flown during the Ligue 1 champions’ 3-0 win over Nimes at the weekend, demonstrating some fans’ lack of patience with the player.
A return to Barca appeared to be Neymar’s most likely move earlier in the summer, but Madrid are increasingly confident they can take advantage of a strained relationship between the Barca and PSG hierarchies, following the 27-year-old’s controversial switch to Paris two summers ago.
Barca defender Gerard Pique last week called on his former teammate to publicly speak out and push through his “complicated” return to the Camp Nou, with the Blaugrana board unable to match PSG’s asking price and hoping to make a player-swap deal instead.
It is also unlikely Madrid can match the world-record €222 million fee paid by PSG two years ago, having been unable to find the £180m that Manchester United wanted for Paul Pogba before the Premier League transfer window shut last week.
Sources say Madrid are now “going hard” to try and sign Neymar before Spain’s summer market closes on Sept. 2, and squad members have also been calling Neymar directly to tell him that he would be welcome at the Bernabeu.
Neymar is a longtime target of Madrid president Florentino Perez, who has tried on numerous occasions to sign the highly marketable star, both before and after he joined Barca from Santos in 2013.
After Madrid’s final preseason game at Roma on Sunday, Zidane was asked if he would like Neymar in his team next season. He said: “We are here with the team we have, the players we have.
“We just think about that. Next week our league begins and our minds are just thinking about Saturday.”