Neymar, Thiago Silva, Bale and the future Clasico stars Barcelona & Real Madrid could sign this summer

Ahead of Saturday's Clasico match, peers into the future to examine the likelihood of the two clubs capturing their biggest summer targets
By Robin Bairner

Although Barcelona and Real Madrid both go into the concluding weeks of the 2011-12 season scrapping for major honours, neither side will want to be caught cold in the summer transfer market, which could dictate the long-term success of both clubs.

Coaches Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are well aware that their squads are not yet perfect – a fact rammed home by the pair of midweek Champions League defeats the teams suffered. And for weeks, months and in some cases perhaps even years, the two Spanish giants will have been plotting their forthcoming transfer targets, who will be acquired in order to maintain the prominent position of the clubs both domestically and on the continent.   

So who are the players targeted by the Liga duopolists, and what chance do Barca and Madrid stand of capturing their prey? Ahead of Saturday’s potentially decisive Clasico encounter at Camp Nou, has picked out some of the superstars who will be pursued over the coming weeks.

SERGIO AGUERO | Manchester City, Forward, 23

Read more on Aguero
Appearances 44
Goals 28
Assists 11
Transfer value €47m
Interested clubs Real Madrid
Odds of joining Madrid 16/1

‘El Kun’ has been strongly touted with a move to Real Madrid in the media by a number of figures, but none more prominent than Diego Maradona, the Manchester City star’s father-in-law. Regardless of what the Madrid press or the Argentine legend say, Aguero won't move to Los Blancos in the foreseeable future.

City regard him as their only truly indispensable striker, with Roberto Mancini’s side willing to listen to offers instead for Mario Balotelli, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and forgotten man Roque Santa Cruz.

Adored at the Etihad Stadium, the former Atletico Madrid attacker will not be budged this summer, with City boasting the financial clout to ensure that he is not prised away by the lure of the mythical Spanish outfit.

JORDI ALBA | Valencia, Left-back, 23

Read more on Jordi Alba
Appearances 43
Goals 3
Assists 5
Transfer value €20m
Interested clubs Barcelona
Odds on joining Barca 2/1

The left-back slot is something of a headache for Barca, with concerns over the health of Eric Abidal still on the forefront after the Frenchman’s recent liver transplant. As a result, they are still rather short in this area of the rearguard, with Adriano filling something of a void in midweek against Chelsea.

A club such as Barcelona demands world-class talent, and for all the Brazilian’s versatility and effort, he is not a standout to hold down such a role at the Blaugrana. The Catalans are understandably looking elsewhere.

Their eye has been caught by the young Valencia star, who started out as a left winger but has been increasingly shifted into the back four by coach Unai Emery. Although there is some concern over Los Che’s €20 million asking price, it is understood that a deal will be thrashed out over the course of the coming weeks that will see the Spain international trade Mestalla for Camp Nou.

GARETH BALE | Tottenham, Left-back, 22

Read more on Bale
Appearances 37
Goals 13
Assists 14
Transfer value €45m
Interested clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid
Odds on joining Barca 16/1
Odds on joining Madrid 12/1

Welsh star Bale has been associated with both Spanish giants in recent months, having exploded onto the scene in England last season with several spectacular displays for Harry Redknapp’s Spurs side.

A player of tremendous attacking ability from the left-back role, his pace, power and technical ability have caught the eye in the Premier League, yet Barca and Madrid are yet to be fully convinced. The Catalans have baulked at the €45m Spurs are reportedly demanding for the player’s signature, while the capital club do not regard him as a significant upgrade on Marcelo.

Tottenham are set to sell one of their big stars in the summer if they fail to reach the Champions League next term, and though Luka Modric is the favourite to depart White Hart Lane, the prospect of Bale exiting has not been completely ruled out. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that one of Spain’s leading duo will be the destination.

JAVI MARTINEZ | Athletic Bilbao, Central midfielder, 23

Read more on Martinez
Appearances 48
Goals 4
Assists 1
Transfer value 30.5m
Interested clubs Real Madrid
Odds on joining Madrid 6/1

The World Cup winner has been turning heads with his dynamic play from the middle of Athletic Bilbao’s midfield for several years now, despite his relatively tender years. The Basque player is capable in several different roles, but has typically been used as a destructive player by Marcelo Bielsa, despite commendable technical attributes.

Madrid are one of a number of clubs courting the youngster, but the relationship between Los Leones and their capital cousins is not a strong one, and it is considered that they would far rather offload the former Osasuna player abroad instead.

Interest comes from England, where the player’s physical attributes could dovetail nicely with his ball-playing skill to make him an effective presence in the Premier League. In particular, Manchester United are on his case, with the fee expected to be around the €30.5m mark. His release clause stands at €41.5m, though.

NEYMAR | Santos, Forward, 20

Read more on Neymar
Appearances 7
Goals 5
Assists 0
Transfer value 60m
Interested clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid
Odds on joining Barca n/a
Odds on joining Madrid n/a

Arguably the most exciting young talent on the planet at present, the prodigious Brazilian attacker has wowed European suitors with his dazzling dribbling skills, while Pele has declared the Santos forward to be the most talented player in the game.

There is certainly not a more hyped 20-year-old in football today, and the view in Europe is that he will not have been truly tested until he signs for one of the traditional big guns in Europe.

The chances of Neymar leaving Santos this summer are very slim, however. reported that negotiations with Real Madrid have broken down because he and his father are extremely unsatisfied by the way president Florentino Perez treated them.

He seems close to Barca, whose president Sandro Rosell has made clear that he wants him in a Blaugrana shirt as early as 2013. Still, no transfer deal has been agreed yet and anyone who wants him should be willing to pay the €60m tag of his release clause. Neymar recently signed a new agreement with Santos and a large chunk of the club’s sponsorship deals are based on him staying.

THIAGO SILVA | AC Milan, Centre-back, 27

Read more on Thiago Silva
Appearances 37
Goals 3
Assists 0
Transfer value 32m
Interested clubs Barcelona
Odds on joining Barca 5/2

Is no secret that the Milan centre-back is the first name on Barca's shopping list for the summer. Carles Puyol is 34, Gerard Pique has been inconsistent this season and the young talents from La Masia don't seem to be ready to make the grade just yet. A reinforcement is needed, and the Brazilian is seen as the man for the job.

He fast became the best player plying his trade on Italian soil, and to many at Milan he is now seen as nothing less than irreplaceable. With great ability in the air, pace, presence and fantastic man-marking technique, the Brazilian has helped the Rossoneri to some excellent statistics defensively, despite the many struggles they have suffered in that department over the last couple of years. Above all, it is his exemplary anticipation which sets him out from the crowd, meaning he has been able to regularly close out a number of threatening moves before they have even begun.

It is because of his huge value to the team that Massimiliano Allegri drew criticism for risking Thiago Silva in a league match recently despite already carrying a hamstring injury, and that resulted in his absence in the two Champions League knockout clashes with Barcelona. So vital is the Brazilian to the Rossoneri that many believe the coach's unwise move put Milan on the back foot from the get go. He will be difficult to prise away from San Siro.

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