In the penultimate game of the United States leg of the International Champions Cup, the world’s greatest soccer rivalry was played in America for the first time ever. Barcelona prevailed 3-2 in a thrilling, back-and-forth game, but as with all preseason matches, it’s less about the final score and more about the observations we can make about the two teams. Here are four of the most important lessons to be drawn from Miami’s El Clasico:
1. Neymar doesn’t appear affected by the gossip
With rumors swirling around the young Brazilian regarding a potential move to PSG—some saying he’s already made up his mind, some saying there’s no chance he leaves Barca—Neymar didn’t appear very bothered. While it wasn’t his sharpest performance in front of goal, Neymar was one of Barcelona’s best players on the ball on Saturday night, earning the assist on two out of his team’s three goals.
2. Marco Asensio is ready to become a star
Many were beginning to wonder about the quality and quantity of Madrid’s young talents after Los Blancos shipped away James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata. Fear not—Marco Asensio is ready to take the next step after his breakout season in 2016-17. The 21-year-old was dazzling against Barcelona’s defense, who had no answer for the youngster on the wings. Asensio managed ten goals in all competitions last season; he could top that tally in La Liga play alone this year.
3. The future of the BBC is in doubt
Perhaps not today—and it likely won’t happen this year—but Madrid fans are starting to get a glimpse of life without their world-class front line. Cristiano Ronaldo is 32, Karim Benzema is 29, and the youngest of the bunch, Gareth Bale (28), was largely invisible on Saturday. Each of the three has been linked with a move away from the club this summer. The good thing for Madrid? A handful of savvy moves this summer have given them loads of surplus funds with which to bolster their second team.
4. The U.S. is fully embracing European soccer
Between record crowds in Miami, L.A., and Nashville, exorbitant ticket prices to Saturday night’s showdown, and rather over-the-top festivities including a half-hour-long pregame show, it’s clear that this summer’s International Champions Cup in the U.S.A. was a rousing success and a huge money-maker. It’s almost certain to happen again next year. But the real barometer of the sport blossoming in the States won’t be the fans in Ronaldo or Messi shirts, but rather the number of fans supporting their local teams. The U.S. still has a long way to go in that respect, but it was encouraging seeing the sport make national headlines for a couple weeks.
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