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A Beginning…and an End? (Snap Judgments: Juventus FC vs. FC Barcelona)

Robert Cole/ALOST
The Messi-Neymar era - highlighted by two La Liga titles, three wins in the Copa del Rey and the 2015 Champions League trophy - might be coming to an end at Barcelona with reports that PSG are set to obtain the Brazilian. (Robert Cole/ALOST)
The Messi-Neymar era – highlighted by two La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey wins and the 2015 Champions League trophy – might end very soon at Barcelona, with reports that PSG are set to obtain the Brazilian. (Robert Cole/ALOST)

 

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — If tonight was indeed the last game for Brazilian superstar Neymar in the famous Blaugrana colors, his performance was more than worthy of the grand stage that he played on in the shadows of New York City.

The effervescent forward scored two brilliant goals in a span of 10 minutes in the first half as FC Barcelona kicked off its United States preseason tour with a 2-1 victory over Juventus FC in the International Champions Cup game at a sold-out MetLife Stadium. In what turned out to be the most-attended soccer match in the history of the state of New Jersey, the 82,000-plus fans – mostly dressed in the blue and garnet of Barça – saw Neymar record a brace, including burying home a right-footed drive after weaving past five separate Juventus defenders on his way to the penalty area to double the lead in the 26th minute.

Those two goals may very well have been the last two tallies he ever records in his four-year run in Catalonia, as reports continue to surface that Ligue 1 powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain are coming close to triggering the $258.9 million buyout clause in his contract to obtain his services in the French capital. (An ESPNFC report earlier on Saturday stated that Neymar and PSG had agreed to terms.) After the game, new Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde asserted that Barcelona’s future includes the striker, saying that Barça “are not going to go without Neymar.”

“We want him with us,” continued Valverde, through an interpreter, after his first match as Barcelona’s manager. “We know the importance he has not just in our play, but also in the dressing room, where he contributes to the dynamic of the group. We want him with us, that’s clear.”

Despite the Champions League-like atmosphere in the steamy conditions of the Meadowlands, this victory was just a small bit of revenge for Barcelona after Juventus eliminated the Catalan giants in the quarterfinals of last season’s Champions League, holding Barcelona without a goal in both legs. The Old Lady scored its goal today on a header by center back Giorgio Chiellini off a corner kick in the 63rd minute. Paulo Dybala set up the corner by forcing Barcelona goalkeeper Adrián Ortolá into a diving save just seconds prior to the corner that led to the goal, with the corner delivered to the head of Chiellini by Dybala.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from tonight’s game, with all photos taken by our senior photographer, Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 24 pictures in total.

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