Sure, managers can get an idea of what their players have to offer ahead of a long and arduous season, but very few definitive assessments can be made during a game with so many substitutions and such limited flow.
According to Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri, the friendly was simply a way of getting better acquainted with his squad. “We didn’t even have a full practice together as a team yet, so it was a very important match to launch us into our preparations for the season.” For a side who are still looking to find their feet ahead of the start of the season, the Champions League runners up looked in fine form. A one-goal preseason loss in which many from the starting XI were only introduced at halftime, among them crowd-favorites Paulo Dybala, Alex Sandro and Gonzalo Higuain, clearly doesn’t bother Allegri much. For him, this was a learning experience.
There’s an interesting juxtaposition of expectations when it comes to a preseason tournament like the International Champions Cup. Its marquee matchups draw huge crowds, and the showdown at MetLife more than lived up to the hype with an attendance of 82,104.
However, for the European clubs making the trek stateside for training and fixtures ahead of the season, it’s never really that serious. Naturally, it takes players time to reach peak fitness after making the return to training. And yet, for fans paying the hefty price to come support their favorite clubs, it’s a bit difficult to understand that their team’s best players will only feature for half of the time.
Perhaps that’s why certain fans took the risk of literally leaving the stands and rushing onto the field during Barcelona’s training session on Friday evening at Red Bull Arena. As many as five fans attempted to break through security to reach Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez as the team concluded its practice. One made it as far as Neymar and hugged the Brazilian before stadium staff finally reached him and removed him from the grounds.
After asking Valverde how it felt to get the kind of support Barcelona have received during their US tour and whether or not such incidences worried him, I was surprised by his matter-of-fact response. “We understand that those fans [who rushed the field] did that for their love of the players and the club. [In the end], it was only four or five people who managed it and it’s nothing to be alarmed about. We know that they want to see these players and this is exactly why we are here: for them.”