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CR7, Leo have company

sports Updated: Aug 23, 2013 02:47 IST
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For the first time since Cristiano Ronaldo joined Real Madrid, the talk in Spain doesn't revolve around either the Portugal forward or his main rival at Barcelona, Lionel Messi.

Arguably the two best players in the world have been overshadowed by what appears to be the imminent arrival of Tottenham winger Gareth Bale to Madrid and Neymar's good start at Barcelona. With Messi hurt and likely unavailable for Sunday's match at Malaga, Neymar may get his first start for Barcelona after coming off the bench in his first two games.

The 21-year-old Brazilian scored a header on Wednesday to earn a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup after Messi was substituted at halftime due to pain in his left thigh.

Starting XI?
After rising to the occasion for his new team with Messi injured and its attack stalled, now may be the moment when Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino picks Neymar for his starting 11.

Messi and Neymar only played together for seven minutes during last weekend's 7-0 rout of Levante in the league opener.

And they may not get a chance to play together at La Rosaleda Stadium after Barcelona's team doctors said that the Argentine had bruised a muscle in his left thigh, with the speed of his recovery determining his availability.

Neymar has been recovering from anemia following surgery on his tonsils, but he looked to be in top form when he raced in to nod home Dani Alves' cross against Atletico.

"It's bad not to play with Messi. He's the best in the world and everyone wants to play with him," Neymar said.

Signing rumours
The Spanish media is buzzing with speculation that the offseason's longest transfer saga will finally become a reality, making Bale a Madrid player in possibly a record deal that could surpass the £80 million that the Spanish club paid for Ronaldo.

Even Madrid great Raul Gonzalez chimed in on Bale.

"I think he is a player that changes games," Raul said. "In recent seasons he has marked the difference for his team, and now, after Ronaldo and Messi, it looks like he is the one coming up the strongest. Everyone wants him."