Amid all the chaos of transfer deadline day of the 2021 summer window, Barcelona veteran Gerard Pique found time to troll archrivals Real Madrid over their failure to sign Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe.
Sources told ESPN's Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez on Tuesday that Madrid had lodged a renewed offer worth €200 million for Mbappe, only to receive no reply from PSG. This came after Los Blancos opened with a bid of €160m for Mbappe last week, followed by an improved offer of €170m plus €10m in add-ons -- both of which were rebuffed by the French giants.
Sure enough, the deadline passed at midnight CEST on Tuesday with Mbappe going nowhere. The 22-year-old is now set to remain in the French capital, with his contract due to expire next summer.
These events have conspired against Marca. Last Friday the Madrid-based sports newspaper launched a poll asking which shirt number Mbappe would wear at Real when he completed his transfer to the Bernabeu.
"Fans are wondering which number the Frenchman will don for his new team" the Marca poll declared, before presenting the viable options on offer: No. 19, No. 5, No. 23 or another number.
It was mooted that Mbappe might take the No. 19 shirt vacated by Alvaro Odriozola, the No. 5 formerly worn by fellow French icon Zinedine Zidane, the No. 23 jersey in tribute to Michael Jordan (a la David Beckham), or even that he might take another such as the No. 7 or No. 10 off Eden Hazard or Luka Modric respectively. For the record, No. 19 won with 33% of the vote.
Four days and almost 40,000 votes later, Pique weighed in on Twitter, riling Real supporters by joking that Mbappe would definitely be wearing the No. 7 shirt this season because he'd be remaining at PSG.
Pique's tweet quickly went viral, but perhaps he should have remembered that those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, as Barca had endured a risible transfer window themselves. Blighted by financial issues, the Catalans last month had to let Lionel Messi leave as a free agent, and on deadline day sent Antoine Griezmann back to Atletico Madrid on loan as part of their efforts to meet LaLiga's financial regulations and register the players they signed this summer. Having also waved goodbye to Luis Suarez last summer, Barca's once-formidable attacking lineup now includes Martin Braithwaite and deadline-day signing Luuk de Jong.
𝙍𝙀𝘾𝘼𝙋 !! Final day of transfer window:— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 1, 2021
🤝6:20pm Transfer: @IlaixMK to @RBLeipzig_EN
🤝6:55pm Loan: Rey Manaj to @acspezia_en
🤝7:30pm Transfer: @Emerson_Royal22 to @SpursOfficial
🤝1:22am Loan: @AntoGriezmann to @atletienglish
🤝3:30am Loan: @LuukdeJong9 from @SevillaFC_ENG
And the same club allowed Emerson Royal to join Tottenham Hotspur on deadline day, just 29 days after Barca president Joan Laporta had insisted the Brazilian right-back would be "here to stay" during his unveiling ceremony.
Joan Laporta said this at Emerson Royal's Barcelona presentation 29 days ago...— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 31, 2021
Today, he joined Tottenham for a reported €30 million 😳 pic.twitter.com/SV38xSYNNy
Despite Pique's chirping, many were quick to point out just how bizarrely poor Barca have been in conducting their transfer business over the past year or so. It's almost like the club learned nothing from the Suarez saga, which came back to bite them (pun intended) after the veteran striker deemed surplus to requirements at the Camp Nou reluctantly departed -- only to fire Atletico Madrid to their first LaLiga title in eight years the very next season.
Mad how Barcelona gave Atletico €86m, Luis Suarez, the La Liga title and Antoine Griezmann in exchange for Antoine Griezmann.— Tony Cuddihy (@Tony_Cuddihy) August 31, 2021
How one club went from Messi, Suarez and Neymar to Braithwaite, de Jong and Memphis in four years, via spending $430 million on Griezmann, Dembele and Coutinho - the Barcelona story. #mesqueunclub https://t.co/dV1K8koQmX— Jason Le Miere (@JasonLeMiere) August 31, 2021
Absolutely incredible transfer window from Barcelona.— Ronan Murphy (@swearimnotpaul) August 31, 2021
The worst in history? https://t.co/1Mbw1NfRRv
It's not the first time Pique has found himself at the centre of a viral storm alongside Mbappe either, with Barca getting very upset about a certain meme that did the rounds on social media earlier this year.
The image of Pique desperately trying to stop a rampaging Mbappe by grabbing a fistful of the young forward's shirt during their Champions League round-of-16 clash was adopted by Sevilla for a bit of social media fun.
Barca had to wait two weeks to exercise their right to reply and defend their captain, but eventually did so after coming from behind to knock Sevilla out of the Copa del Rey in the semifinals.
"Football is about respect," the Catalans pointedly huffed while quoting the original Sevilla meme, before wishing their vanquished opponents goodnight.
Football is about respect. 𝘉𝘰𝘯𝘢 𝘯𝘪𝘵. https://t.co/TW5WFgkjle— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 3, 2021
Regardless, it's unlikely that Pique himself has lost too much sleep while the Mbappe furore continued around him.
In fact, it's probably more advantageous for Pique that the young PSG forward remains in France, and not just because it means Madrid haven't (yet) signed one of the world's best players.
Pique's Kosmos Holding company recently acquired the rights to broadcast Ligue 1 games live in Spain -- this of course coming after Pique's former teammate Messi made his much-anticipated debut for the Parisians against Reims on Aug. 29.
Messi replaced Mbappe for the final 30 minutes of the 2-0 victory, which commanded a strong average audience of over two million viewers in Spain, making it the most-watched French domestic game ever televised in the country.
All the more reason for Pique to celebrate Mbappe staying in France -- at least for a little while longer.