A friendly Clasico happened, but we prefer the unfriendly kind

A sort of soccer-themed spectacle took place just outside of Miami on Saturday night, dialing all of the trappings of modern sports as a mega-event up as high as they would go.

There was smoke and fireworks and flickering lights. Thumping music, of course. The pre-season friendly game got the two-hour on-scene “SportsCenter” treatment on ESPN, where commentators spoke breathlessly about the exhibition they were broadcasting. For four days, there had been events all over Miami to mark the occasion, with world-famous DJs playing and even an accompanying MMA thing.

It was, after all, just the second time that Barcelona and Real Madrid would meet outside of Spain. The only other time was in 1982, when they had played in a pre-season tournament in Venezuela apparently attended by just 40 people. The last friendly between the Spanish blood-rivals was in 1991.

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The whole thing had a studied festiveness about it, with Mark Anthony playing a half-time show — or so it seemed, since the sound cut out for a lot of it on the broadcast.

Soccer’s most famous rivalry becoming commercialized for maximum monetary gain, in front of 80,000 in an NFL colossus, is the logical conclusion of the sport’s slow march in the sale of its soul. But no matter. There isn’t any other soccer to be watched right now. And so a summertime bonus Clasico was appreciated by many. Yay.

Nevermind that the defending was worse than that of an NBA All-Star Game, and that the whole thing was every bit as sloppy as you would expect from teams playing in just their third friendly of the preseason. It was actually quite watchable for the abundance of attacking, with Barca largely overrunning Real and claiming a 3-2 win after blowing a two-goal lead.

Save for the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, the teams were at full strength. And, until halftime, they remained so even after Barca’s Neymar rolled his ankle in the first minute. He would keep playing, but not until we had all wondered if this would scupper his blockbuster rumored move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Lionel Messi put Barca ahead against the defending La Liga and Champions League title holders in just the third minute, when he diced through the Real defense and scored on an arcing deflection.


By the seventh minute, Ivan Rakitic had doubled the score with a precise blast from the edge of the box.


But Mateo Kovacic found a crack in the Barca defense and ripped a well-placed shot right through it and past goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen in the 14th.


Well before halftime, Real would even it up. Marco Asensio was played through by Kovacic in the 36th minute. He evaded Jordi Alba’s tackle and beat Cillessen.


Just after halftime, however, Barca would find a winner when Gerard Pique ran onto a Neymar free kick and redirected it home.


In their first meeting of the season, Barca beat Real.

So now what?

Now nothing.

How much did we learn?

Pretty much zero.

Does this change the outlook for the season of either team?

LOL.

It was a Clasico in name and in the composition of the competitors. But it also wasn’t in the sense that it had none of the fiery animosity these games regularly garner. Other than some Barca players getting genuinely mad about not being awarded a penalty, it was a scrimmage. Just one that happened to be between teams that have been fighting out a proxy war for Spain’s capital and a region that has agitated for secession for the better part of a century.

Some people who paid through the nose to watch it seemed to be having a good time though. Others tuned in and watched on TV. Collectively, they fattened the pockets of the two richest clubs in the world — in any sport. Which is all fine. It probably means that no real harm was done. That is, if you don’t mind the cheapening of the most beloved rivalry in the most popular sport in the world.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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