Sitting in my bottom draw is a crisp, clean and pure white home shirt of Los Blancos. It's this season's kit, it's perhaps not so crisp anymore after wearing it a few times, but I haven't overworn it. Why? Because when you buy the shirt you're advised that if you want a player name and number on the back you should get it done straight away. Why, I have no idea, and it probably doesn't matter at all. As you can tell, I wasn't tempted with a player's name on the back. I'm 27 after all, aren't I too old for a name and number on the back of my shirt?
The reason for buying it blank wasn't down to the above reason, though. I probably wish it was. This is Real Madrid we're talking about here, I'm spoilt for choice for world-class players on the back. Ronaldo, Kaka, Higuain, Benzema, Alonso, Di Maria, Ozil, Ramos - the possibilities are endless, and for a while I was opting for Higuain. I was all-set for a trip to the Bernabeu before the league match against Betis, new shirt in tow, but something told me to wait.
That something was a young Brazilian called Neymar, I'm sure you've all heard of him. You're Madridistas, of course you've heard of him! For the last who-knows-how-many months the media in Spain, South America and across the world has been suggesting the talented young attacker would be at the Bernabeu anytime soon.
The reports looked clear-cut - other top European sides such as Chelsea, Manchester City and Inter Milan were out of the running for the highly-rated Santos player and that left Madrid and Barcelona, and Madrid were front runners. Neymar looked Madrid bound. It was as if the rumour, the speculation and all the talk surrounding his future had all-but stopped because the press knew just what was going on. The two parties had agreed a deal in principle but nothing had been finalised, so nothing could be reported as being done and dusted. Madrid were keeping quiet, it reminded me of the quiet before the storm of signing Ronaldo. Neymar wanted to stay at Santos until they competed in the FIFA World Club Cup in Japan in December and after that he'd fly to the Spanish capital. If not then, next summer.
Could he play in the same team as Ronaldo? How would the pair slot in the Madrid team? Where would Kaka, Ozil and Di Maria play? Just how good will Neymar be for Madrid? Is he the next Galactico? The questions had started to be asked before the Brazilian had even signed for Madrid. All the questions, for now at least, can be put to rest.
Neymar, and his club Santos, today announced that he's signed a new deal with the club that will run until 2014, just before Brazil host the next World Cup. Neymar's happy, his family is happy, and Santos are happy. Madridistas, are not. Whether the 19-year-old had agreed a deal in principle with Madrid is anyone's guess for the time being. The player himself has said that his dad took care of any offers and didn't let him know, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that he had some idea.
GOING NOWHERE: Brazilian striker Neymar
Neymar said in a statement: "I want to thank those clubs [Barcelona and Madrid] who were interested in my football, and the fans who wanted to see me there. It is a great honour to have two huge clubs wanting my football. The clubs wanted me to go over there, but we all have to make choices in our lives. And today, my choice was Santos."
Today, he choice was staying with Santos. Tomorrow it could be a different story. In modern football contracts mean little. If Madrid were as desperate to land him as they were Ronaldo, and offer £80 million for his services, Santos wouldn't think twice about it. As daft as it sounds, the ball is almost in Madrid's court again. If they want him, plump up the cash for him, if they don't want him, they can wait.
Waiting, as impatient as I, and many others probably are, may not be the worst thing to do for Madrid. Who knows where the club and star players like Ronaldo, Higuain and Kaka will be in four years' time? One thing's for sure, if Neymar is the next superstar in waiting, he'll certainly be a better player in four years' time. He's 19 now, his contract will end when he's 23. That's pretty good timing if Madrid are to snap him up then for next to nothing. More experienced and with, hopefully, the experience of a World Cup in the bag too.
Looking at it from Neymar's point of view, signing the new contract does make sense. He's happy at Santos, that's clear for all to see. That's not saying he doesn't at some point want a move to Europe, but at the moment he's happy and he's still young with his whole football career ahead of him. He has the FIFA World Club Cup coming up in December and he has the World Cup in his home country, and the country he'll be playing his domestic football in, in 2014. Brazil will certainly be one big party in the year or so running up to the World Cup, and Neymar will be there for it.
In the meantime, we Madridistas (and indeed Barca fans) will have to watch on in awe at his silky skills from afar, keeping everything crossed that one day the talent that is Neymar will someday grace the Bernabeu. The rumour and speculation can be put on hold for the time being. The Madrid shirt came remain blank, with no name on the back. By the time Neymar will be coming to the end of his Santos contract (and indeed when he says he's going to stay until) I'll be 30 - is that too old to get a player's name and number on the back of your shirt? Hopefully not...