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Messi stirs Camp Nou with impassioned speech

The Trofeo Gamper was originally created by Enrique Llaudet in 1966 to pay homage to FC Barcelona’s founder [Joan Gamper]; but it soon developed into a stage on which fans could get their first glimpse of the summer signings. Back in those days, when only very few people had a television at home, it was the only way Barça fans could watch the new arrivals in action and make a critical assessment of their game. It’s similar in today’s digital age, only less so because we’ve all been able to watch the new recruits on TV or online and at this part of the summer, the stands are usually filled more by tourists than season ticket holders. But as from yesterday, there’s a extra incentive to make your way down to Camp Nou for the new season curtain raiser – to listen to Leo Messi. With those comments he made before that fateful trip to Anfield still fresh in our minds, he addressed the 99,000-strong Camp Nou crowd last night: “I don’t regret a single thing” he declared to the fans, microphone in hand from the centre of the pitch, then promised Barça would be going all out to win “that beautiful trophy”, the Champions League, once again this season.

Messi salutes supporters before the 54th Joan Gamper Trophy against Arsenal at Camp Nou.

Messi addresses Camp Nou

It was wonderful to see Messi stepping to the frontline and rallying the troops in this new role. That quiet and timid guy we used to know has taken on a more vocal, commanding role at club so naturally and assuming all of the consequences that might come with it. There he was addressing a packed stadium, defiant and resolute – and scowling I suppose, at the memory of how that “beautiful trophy we want so much” eluded him and maybe also for the three-month ban which CONMEBOL served him just 24 hours earlier. His sending off was totally unfair, but he went a little overboard when protesting about it. Anyway, he looked very determined and confident when he heaped praise on the squad and the team’s achievement of winning eight league titles in 11 years – an amazing feat – probably only just shaded by Madrid’s successes in Europe.

Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann saw his effort disallowed for offside

New signings in action

In the end he didn’t play as he’d only just returned from his holidays. But the three new signings: Neto, De Jong and Griezmann did play, and neither impressed nor deceived. Neto by beaten by a fierce strike from Aubameyang, De Jong looked solid and Griezmann played in central, attacking role, which isn’t his normal position. He improved whenever he drifted to the left during the few minutes he spent playing together with Luis Suárez who, by the way, resolved the game with a brilliant finish right on the final whistle. For tourists, it was an entertaining game to watch with lots of new faces, and some real moments of magic (a very tasty, double nutmeg from Rakitic) and Riqui Puig draw applause for his performance. A very pleasant, entertaining night and another Gamper Trophy for the hosts.