Spanish football returned last night with the first-leg of the Super Cup between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Nou Camp, in a match that was surrounded amongst some very strange circumstances.
El Clasico is usually a game where the best and most expensive players in the world go head-to-head but that has changed in recent years, with Spanish clubs seemingly no longer the financial powerhouse they used to be- shown by Barcelona’s loss of Neymar.
On an evening where Neymar was shining on his Paris Saint-Germain debut, Barcelona had an obvious void missing in their attack and the match was a stark contrast to the days where El Clasico would boast the five most expensive players in the world.
It was also different due to the fact that neither Spanish giant has really flexed their muscles in the transfer market so far, with Barcelona finalising a deal to bring former Spurs man Paulinho back from China and trying to chase a replacement for Neymar; Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho being their preferred options.
Real Madrid too have not gone down the Galatico route this summer, despite months of speculation suggesting they’d move for someone like David De Gea or Eden Hazard, and Zinedine Zidane’s side have added just Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernandez to their ranks, two players who bolster the squad depth rather than the first-team specifically.
That’s not a criticism towards Los Blancos at all though as it’s difficult to improve upon perceived perfection, as there isn’t a part of the side that has won two consecutive Champions League titles that needs directly improving
Questions would have been asked of Real Madrid’s spending had they lost last night though but they instead showed the solid depth within their ranks, with Isco and Marco Asensio both having fantastic games.
On the flip-side, Barcelona had an evening to forget and it all started to fall apart when Gerard Pique put the ball into his own net. Gerard Deulofeu, re-signed from Everton, didn’t have the best of games and failed to last 90 minutes – something which was a big criticism from fans following his time in the Premier League.
Real Madrid are trying to prove this season that they have not peaked following their consecutive trophies in Europe and their La Liga success, whilst Barcelona are looking to show there is life beyond Neymar – and it’s difficult to assess which task will be the hardest.
Zidane’s side were certainly the better outfit last night and it raises serious questions about Barcelona for the forthcoming matches. There’s still a second-leg to play but the Catalan giants seem to lack the ability to turn the game on it’s head and they’ll need a strong response when La Liga kicks-off this weekend.
Real Madrid can certainly enjoy a quiet end to the transfer window as there doesn’t seem to be any work required, whereas Barcelona will face a frantic few weeks as they look to conclude deals for Coutinho and Dembele.
Even those two superstars may not be enough to salvage Barcelona’s sinking ship though as their on-field woes come amidst a wealth of off-field problems, notably the decline of La Masia and the seeming inability to bleed youth graduates into their first-team squad.
Ernesto Valverde may be the solution, as he worked with very restrictive rules in the market with Athletic Bilbao, but the loss of Neymar and dealing with an ageing squad may leave him with too much to do and, potentially, not enough time to do it as Barcelona are unlikely to be patient this season.
Overall, the early signs for Real Madrid are extremely positive whilst there’s plenty of reasons to be concerned about Barcelona ahead of the forthcoming season.
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