Tito Vilanova’s meaningless Neymar denial

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Real Madrid. Barcelona. A bunch of English clubs. This is the established field for the next big thing in world soccer: Brazilian attacker Neymar, currently on display at the London Olympics.

We’re in our second year of speculation as to where the 20-year-old will land. Last winter, the ever-reliable Harry Harris reported that a deal was done with Real Madrid. Barcelona links abound, ignoring the facts that (a) Neymar has a contract that takes him through Brazil 2014, and (b) he’s earning very good money to stay in Brazil. So close to the World Cup being hosted in his home nation, it would be a major upset (on two levels) if the Sao Paulo-born, Sao Paulo-raised, Sao Paulo-living star left the state before one of the country’s signature moments.

(MORE: Putting Neymar’s hot Olympics start in perspective)

Why new Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova would have to deny his club’s interest in Neymar confounds me. I’m sure that Barça are interested in Neymar, on some level. I don’t even have a team, and I’m interested in him. But it should go without saying: It’s a waste of time for media covering a Spanish team to dwell on a Brazil-based player a year-and-a-half, two years away from a potential move.

Here’s what the new Barcelona coach had to say about his club’s hypothetical pursuit of Neymar:

“I’ve never talked about the signing of Neymar for Barcelona,” Vilanova said Sunday, his team coming off a defeat of Paris Saint-Germain. “What’s happened is that you, the journalists, have brought it up.”

Seems pretty cut-and-dry, but I have a secret to share. I’m not supposed to reveal this trick of the trade – I might be kicked out of the Soccer Bloggers Union for this – but there’s a handbook you receive via email after you’ve been writing for six months. It’s only six pages long, five of which deal with how to optimize local government services in the absence of wages and benefits. But the last page is devoted to cultivating transfer rumors – the most important part of soccer journalism.

According to the guidelines, the appropriate headlines to draw from Vilanova’s comments are:

(a) Barcelona coy on Neymar pursuit!

(b) Vilanova kept in dark about Neymar purchase!!

(c) Vilanova erupts as secret Neymar plans revealed!!!

At no point are we to acknowledge that Neymar rumors are a complete waste of time, being pursued for a lack of better ideas, and probably wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for search engines.

But who am I to complain? I just wrote 400 words on the story. Hypocrite.