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The end of MSN? Messi sublime in Clasico win as Neymar exit talk looms large

8:03 AM EDT 7/30/17
HD Lionel Messi Barcelona Real Madrid ICC
The Argentine produced a superb showing as Barcelona beat Real Madrid in Miami - and can lead them to great things even if the Brazilian moves on


Neymar now looks close to a move to Paris Saint-Germain after the possibility of an exit intensified over the last few days. But Barcelona will always have Lionel Messi and, with the Argentine at his best, the Catalans can compete with anyone. 

Neymar, Mbappe & Coutinho all to leave

Everyone at Barcelona wants Neymar to stay. The 25-year-old is a friend for many members of the squad and he is also one of the three finest footballers in the world at this point. But there should be no drama if he does decide to move on.

Neymar was in the starting XI for Barca against Real Madrid in the Miami Clasico and he continued the fine form he has shown throughout the ICC. The Brazilian laid the ball off for Ivan Rakitic's goal, set up Gerard Pique's winner with a set piece and also took up some great scoring positions versus Los Blancos.

However, it was Messi who was pulling the strings, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner putting Barca in front early on and stealing the show with some sublime passing. Neymar was wasteful on a number of occasions too. Not that it really mattered, of course - because it is still only pre-season.

What will matter is the next meeting between the two teams - the Spanish Supercopa series in a couple of weeks. And Neymar could well be gone by then. In fact, Saturday's Clasico in Miami may have been the last time the MSN forward line (described by Luis Enrique as the best trident in the history of football) ever play together in an official match.

Barca beat Madrid in Miami Clasico

"It will be a pity if he leaves Barcelona," Suarez said in the pre-match press conference. "If he leaves, it will not change our affection for him. We all want him to stay. He is one of the best three players in the world and we need to enjoy him."

However, it is true that for all the brilliance of the MSN in these past few seasons, Barcelona have lost some of the balance in their team - and especially in midfield - that had made them so special before the arrival of the Brazilian in 2013.

A fee of €222 million (plus the possibility of another player arriving from PSG) will allow Barca to address those concerns under a coach, Ernesto Valverde, who is a meticulous tactician. It will also mean the club can use the remainder of the transfer window to bring in quality back-up options for the team's excellent first XI.

Because although not too much can be drawn from a pre-season fixture, this Clasico followed the pattern of last season's two meetings between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Blaugrana were the better team in both of those games, but the superior squad strength of Zinedine Zidane's side saw them pick up La Liga and the Champions League at the end of the campaign.

Ramos: I hope Neymar leaves Barca

Barca had the better chances in Miami and many more than Madrid, but over a long season the Catalan club will need a strong squad to compete on several fronts. With Messi in their ranks, however, they look more than capable of rivalling Real for the major trophies.

“I expect the best from Messi and all the players but he is extraordinary and we are aiming to win all the titles this season," Valverde said after the match.

Messi is indeed extraordinary and he has led Barca to countless prizes since his explosion in Pep Guardiola's great team in 2008. He did so before Neymar was bought in 2013, he has done so alongside the Brazilian over the past few seasons, and he can do so again if the former Santos forward ends up moving this summer.