Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez in California where the club have been training this week. / EFE

A Clásico in Vegas

Barça seem to be gambling away their future; Madrid are not chancing any flutters

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

The arrivals of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in the US couldn't be more contrasting. The Catalans negotiated a storm of uncertainty while the Kings of the Capital enjoyed a serene landing.

They meet for the first time this season in Las Vegas which is apt. Barça seem to be gambling their future away on a daily basis while Real Madrid are not chancing any flutters.

Barcelona proudly unveiled Robert Lewandowski in Miami. As a commentator, I'm very excited to be describing every move of one of the world's greatest players. It's like the old days when the best performers on the planet arrived in La Liga on a seasonal basis.

He's still at the peak of his powers, after fifty goals in forty-six games for Bayern Munich last season. He's a marquee signing. As is Raphinha who completed a €65-million move from Leeds United. The Brazilian made an immediate impact with a fine goal and two assists on his debut against Inter Miami.

On top of the two headline signings, Barcelona have also strengthened the squad by recruiting Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen. Ousmane Dembele will also re-sign.

The signings are a dream; getting them onto the pitch may be a nightmare. As far as we can ascertain, they can play in the pre-season exhibition games but cannot be registered for La Liga action until financial rules are adhered to.

It's like getting a gleaming new car from the showroom, taking it for a spin but only with temporary plates and getting refused insurance.

This circus sums up the administration of the club right now. They used to say a player could repay a fee with shirt sales. Not Lewandowski though! The club shop ran out of letter Ws after his unveiling.

On top of this, Xavi, the coach, couldn't travel with his team to America as he has Iranian stamps in his passport. His brother Oscar took control for the game against the MLS side. Luckily Miami owner David Beckham and coach Phil Neville joined in with the family initiative. Their sons Romeo and Harvey both took to the field in a 6-0 walkover.

News at bitter rivals Real Madrid is dull in contrast. New signings Antonio Rudiger and Aurelian Touchmeni are using the tour to bond with teammates. It's a slow, sensible rebuild from Carlo Ancelotti - a bit like last season when he allowed Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane to go quietly.

The focus is on Eden Hazard, who is still trying to justify his weighty transfer and shed some weight after a couple of years of fitness hell. Four players from the reserve team have been rewarded with an invitation to join the party.

They are creating a pathway as several fringe players are expected to follow Gareth Bale out of the door. Marco Asensio, Dani Ceballos, Mariano Díaz, Borja Mayoral, Jesús Vallejo and Álvaro Odriozola have all got the message that they are surplus. Japanese international Takefusa Kubo has already left for Real Sociedad.

If the respective presidents do head for the casinos after the game in Vegas you can imagine Barça's boss emptying his wallet onto one number as his counterpart at Real Madrid just enjoys the free drinks and entertainment.