Did I miss something here? Or is it just me?
There were fireworks, famous athletes and passionate soccer fans from across the world energized at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida for a friendly between rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
Barcelona defeated Real Madrid, 3-2. Friendly is equivalent to an exhibition game. The International Champions Cup was awarded to Barcelona.
A day later, there was a hangover feeling. The teams combined value is $7.2 billion, only once have they played away from Spain and their average audience for a regular-season game on television is $400 million. Average tickets sales for this friendly ranged from $250 to $4,500 along with $45-60 for parking.
Entering the exhibition, the headline was Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo. One of them showed up, the other was on vacation. Messi scored the first goal in thrilling fashion in the early minutes to give Barcelona a 1-0 lead. It was a sellout crowd of 66,014 at Hard Rock Stadium and Messi did not disappoint.
The five-time Ballon D’Or winner, who joined FC Barcelona’s youth team at age 13, has led the club to eight league titles and four Champions League titles. He is the team’s all-time scoring leader (507 goals in 583 games). And his game-winning goal over Real Madrid in the closing seconds of the last El Clasico on April 23rd in Madrid was breathtaking (please YouTube and search it). That 3-2 Barca victory was the latest memorable El Clasico moment, and the drama often includes Messi and/or Ronaldo.
Ronaldo remained on vacation. The energy and joy overshadowed his absence. The contrast in Ronaldo and Messi’s personalities and playing styles could have made the rivalry more intriguing. Moreover, made the ticket worth its face value.
“If you are a hard-core Lionel Messi fan, it seems by definition you hate Cristiano Ronaldo,” said ESPN analyst Alejandro Moreno. “And, if you are a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, by definition you hate Lionel Messi. If they had been by themselves in one era, they would be considered the greatest player of their era by a long margin. Because they both exist at the same time, it allows us to see the very best of both players. No doubt the success of one fuels the other.”
“Cristiano Ronaldo is the look-at-me attitude, the persona, the gesturing, the haircut, the abs, the good looks, he’s like, `Here I am, I’m big time,” Moreno said. “His personality is divisive. You think, `Oh, this guy is out there all for himself.’ But then you see him deliver in the moments that count the most and you’re willing to forgive and forget that attitude.”
“Lionel Messi, on the other hand is more subdued, but a quiet guy who’s a genius with the ball at his feet. I prefer to watch Messi play. Without taking anything away from Ronaldo, there is a certain magic to what Messi does that I connect with more than Ronaldo’s power and explosiveness.” They did not duel in the exhibition.
This leads me again to feel the fans lost in the exhibition. High-ticket prices are why many turned away from the game especially at over $200. The $20 tickets for Friday night’s practice were a nice consolation, and 35,700 fans took advantage of that. But as Allen Iverson famously quoted, we’re talking about practice, not the game.
Among the fireworks were the stars including pregnant tennis star Serena Williams, golfer Tiger Woods, NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins, rapper Drake, hip-hop artist French Montana, Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima, Brazilian pro skateboarder Leticia Bufoni, former NFL star Terrell Owens and more than 40 Dolphins players. I don’t know what it means with them in attendance but I doubt they actually paid to attend.
The soccer community in South Florida represented well despite not getting what they were offered. The energy was natural moreover the moments will not be forgotten.