Barça celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary since winning their first European Cup, that Koeman goal at Wembley and Cruyff taking that important step, with 28,000 spectators gathered to see the heroes of such a happy date in the club's history. They played a game of 7-aside (they didn't want to run much) against the Benfica veterans, the club Barça had lost to in their first final, way back in 1961. This all happened on Saturday. On Sunday, Madrid summoned 67,000 fans to watch their Classic Match, another clash of old-timers, this time Madrid versus Roma, without invoking an epic. Roma doesn't have great meaning in the Madridista imagination.
Madrid and Barça fans: contrasting spirits
Attendance in each was, of course, disproportionate. The cause cannot have been only that in one case there was a seven-aside game (which can create interest due to its relative novelty) and the Classic Match was a traditional affair. There was something else that carried more weight: the contrast of moods between one set of supporters and the other. This past year, Barça won the Copa, which was sandwiched between the league and Champions League titles of Madrid. LaLiga was important to Madrid after so many years passing without winning it. But, even more, the Champions League, a second consecutive triumph, a third in four seasons, a sixth in the modern era, and setting apart Cristiano, once again, whose tussle with Messi holds such importance.
A very new challenge for Valverde
It's a difficult time for Barça to celebrate, however important the anniversary. By contrast, for Madrid, it's the opposite, everything is a reason for getting together for merriment. As we know: they are intrinsically connected. When one goes up, the other goes down. That poor show at the Camp Nou to pay homage to the great 'Dream Team' after twenty five years gives us Valderde's first challenge: to raise the spirits. A coach is a leader. Not only the head of staff, he is also a spokesman for the club, the representative across five daily newspapers each week, and the person to work up the atmosphere. Valverde faces a new challenge in his career.