In front of a record-breaking 82,104 fans — the most ever for a soccer game in New Jersey, Barcelona saw off Juventus 2–1 in an exciting International Champions Cup match at MetLife Stadium Saturday night featuring two quality first-half goals from Neymar.
Veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini scored a towering header to halve the lead for Juventus but Barcelona’s Brazilian superstar stole the show. Neymar was electrifying and, considering he’s been at the center of the media storm surrounding the Catalan club, it was fitting that he should remain so after an impressive 45 minutes.
It’s funny how transfer news — recently dubbed ‘the original fake news’ by the New York Times — can create a whirlwind of controversy for fans and players alike. Ever since the story broke that PSG were strongly considering activating Neymar’s release clause from Barcelona and that the Brazilian forward was ‘open’ to the idea of a move to Paris, the soccer world has been alight with the news of what would be the world’s most expensive transfer to date.
It seemed like every group of Barcelona and Juventus fans were discussing the rumors in earnest while waiting outside of MetLife Stadium so I decided to get their opinions on the subject. While some fans insisted he was ‘100% staying,’ many more assured me ‘he was going, it was just a matter of time.’ It’s interesting how transfer rumors, rather than factual news stories about a player or club, are often more earnestly discussed among fans of the beautiful game.
Whether or not the reports are true, the news surrounding the young Barcelona playmaker has made headlines from Pittsburgh to Paris. Unsurprisingly, speculation about Neymar’s future dominated the press’ inquiries the day before Barcelona took on Juventus at MetLife Stadium, despite the fact that Ernesto Valverde wanted nothing to do with it. “I know you are eager to talk about the Neymar topic, but there is nothing to say until something happens,” said the new Blaugrana manager in his pre-match press conference.
It’s hard to blame the press for salivating at such a juicy prospect. Neymar’s departure for PSG would be an exciting story that any and all journalists would jump on. Plus, preseason friendlies are hardly the spectacle they aim to be, despite the International Champions Cup’s pomp and circumstance. They draw large crowds at matches with big stars, but the level of play is that of, well, a team in preseason.