Barcelona will be playing a friendly against Mamelodi Sundowns F.C. at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa today. This trip is sandwiched in between two La Liga games for the Catalans.
Barça have already won La Liga, of course, but that’s still weird. Surely there must be some handsome payment for them to make such a long trip to play a friendly. Sundowns are a big team not just in the South African context, but in the context of the whole continent. But it’s not normal to make this long trip to Africa in between two league games just for a friendly.
Weirdly, Lionel Messi didn’t take part in the 5-4 loss to Levante, but he is in the squad for the friendly. In fact, the trip seemed to force Ernesto Valverde into a few more rotations than he wanted, perhaps. It’s a bit reductionist to say the team lost because of these rotations, but the question will always be there. Did Barcelona sacrifice an unbeaten season for a friendly?
It must be genuinely great for South African Barcelona fans to see their team up close. It also surely helps the brand’s exposure, and ability to reach new markets. And hey, the cash can’t hurt. But doing it for a preseason tour is one thing. Doing it in between league games? I’m not so sure it’s worth it.