January 10 – Amid all the criticism over human rights abuses and accusations of sports washing at the address of Saudi Arabia and its hosting of the Spanish Super Cup, Atletico Madrid tore up the script on Thursday in Jeddah by defeating FC Barcelona 2-3 to set up a Spanish Super Cup final against city rivals Real Madrid.
Saudi Arabia will not have its ‘Clasico’ after the Catalan giants lost the five-goal second half thriller. Substitute Koke handed Atletico the lead with his first touch 21 seconds after coming on, but Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann turned the scoreline around before late strikes from Alvaro Morata and Angelo Correa eventually sunk Barcelona.
Earlier this week Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde had slammed the revamped Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, arguing that it had been an overt choice for money. “The bottom line is football has become a business and as a business it looks for income,” said Valverde “That’s the reason we are all here.”
It is the first time Saudi Arabia is hosting the Spanish Super Cup in three-year deal worth reportedly €120 million struck by the Spanish FA (RFEF). “It’s a completely different format to what we’re used to,” said Valverde. “It was always the first title and the opener of the season and to me that seemed fine. It’s been changed and let’s see, it will be judged once it has happened. It’s interesting, with four good teams, but from a sporting point of view, I’m not sure.”
Valencia, Copa Del Rey winners, will only earn €2 million from the competition, Atletico Madrid €3 million and both Barcelona and Real Madrid €6 million. Zinedine Zidane’s real Madrid progressed to the final on Wednesday after eliminating Valencia 3-1 with goals from Toni Kroos, Isco and Luka Modric sealing Madrid’s passage.
On Sunday, the crosstown rivals will dispute the final.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1596602212labto1596602212ofdlr1596602212owedi1596602212sni@o1596602212fni1596602212