There’s no such thing as a quiet moment in Las Vegas. It’s a boom-or-bust, winner-takes-all kind of town, making it the perfect city for a grand finale between two European soccer powerhouses before they head back home to start their regular seasons.
On Tuesday night, Barcelona and A.C. Milan met at Alligent Stadium for their final stop in the United States on the Soccer Champions Tour presented by DIRECTV.
The vibes in the desert for the last pre-season friendly in the States were scorching, just like the relentless summer heat. Hot off an El Clásico win that showcased the squad in regular season form and a tough loss to Arsenal at SoFI Stadium, Barcelona delivered another dominant performance against A.C. Milan.
Las Vegas’s Allegiant Stadium is gaining a reputation among soccer fans as a wonderful venue for championship-caliber soccer. Last year, over 61,000 fans showed up for an El Clasico friendly between Barcelona and Real Madrid. This year, as part of the Soccer Championships Tour presented by Direct TV, almost 40,000 fans showed up to the state-of-the-art facilities on a Tuesday night for a match.
The first half featured USMNT’s Christian Pulisic showing off his footwork for Milan, along with some dramatic saves from goalkeeper “Magic” Mike Maignan.
But a dramatic strike from Ansu Fati in the second half, mere minutes after he entered the game, put Barca up 1-0 over the Red and Blacks. It was easily the most electric moment of the evening:
— BroBible (@BroBible) August 2, 2023
The biggest storyline of the evening, however, didn’t unravel on the pitch. It was the brewing front office soap opera around Brazlian Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembélé, who scored an incredible goal at El Clásico for Barca, quite likely his last for the team.
Dembélé traveled with Barcelona to Vegas. Yet, after the game against Milan, FC Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez didn’t hold back expressing his disappointment. He told TV3 he was “disappointed” with Dembélé’s decision to go to Paris, saying his deal, worth $110 million over five seasons, is “completely out of the market.”
Barca acquired “The Mosquito” in 2017 from Dortmund on a $115 million contract. They’ll reportedly receive $27.5 million on the swap to PSG. Dembele and his manager, Moussa Sissoko, meanwhile will pocket $27.5 million on the exchange.
Barcelona’s captain, Sergi Roberto, was equally candid about Dembélé’s forthcoming departure from the club, telling Paris Fans: “We are a little disappointed. When you love someone and want them to be with you, it’s a little disappointing when they decide to go somewhere else. It’s a job and everyone decides what’s best for them, for their career and for their family. He will have his reasons, but we have given him everything here and he knows he is an important player for us.”
Turns out that Sin City, true to its rough-and-tumble Wild West cattle town roots, is a great stage for high soccer world drama.
Just another reason why these Soccer Champions Tour presented by DIRECTV soccer showdowns belong on every sports fans’ bucket list.
Barcelona starts its La Liga seasons on August 13. A.C. Milian starts its Serie A season on August 21.