Wednesday’s Trofeo Gamper was made worth the entrance fee alone by Leo Messi - almost effortlessly, with that deceptively nonchalant, half-weary look that he has given off lately. While the team is revving up for the new campaign, he is resolving match on his own. The attack will be the least of Luis Enrique’s concerns for Sunday’s meeting with Sevilla while Messi is looking like this. But there have been more a few question marks over the defence. The team’s looking vulnerable at the back because they are either losing the ball while conducting it forward, or from direct defensive mistakes and that played a big part in why last night’s game ended 3-2 – a victory, but a very slender one. And it’s not one player or another who is at fault (although Mascherano has been looking very suspect), it’s a structural problem – the whole rearguard isn’t functioning as it should be.
And Luis Enrique has given a few clues as to who will feature in his back four against Sevilla on Sunday. Sergi Roberto will occupy the vacant right-back slot left by Alves, to the detriment of Aleix Vidal. Digne, will be over on the opposite flank standing in for Jordi Alba, who’s had a stomach problem and is still not 100 per cent. Neymar’s absent will be covered by Arda Turan, who completed the full 90 minutes last night without doing anything to write home about. Many of the fans whistfully thought of Munir and his goals against Leicester... As for the goalkeeping position, there have been no clues whatsoever. All three played, half an hour each. Masip played the middle part, so that Ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo didn’t have to greet each other on the touchline.
All of that, for the amusement and entertainment of 72,000 spectators - most of them tourists. The Trofeo Gamper isn’t the pre-season curtain raiser it once was, when it was traditionally played on the Wednesday before the league kicked off, season ticket holders reunited after the summer, scrutinizing together the new signings that had been made and making the trek home muttering ‘aquest any sí’ or ‘aquest any tampoc’ (‘This is going to be our year’/‘Maybe not this year - again...’). Now the Gamper is played on a date when most season tickets holders are still lounging on the beach and Camp Nou opens to tourists who have spent the morning at the Sagrada Familia, the afternoon at the Picasso Museum, the evening at Camp Nou then go and have dinner in La Barceloneta. And to each and every one of them Messi returned the price of the ticket, making it a bargain night out for spectators.