El Clasico Miami, the highly-anticipated clash between Spanish titans Real Madrid and FC Barcelona is on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, and still, a burning question remains unanswered: Will Cristiano Ronaldo show up?
The Madrid superstar, who has 107 million Instagram followers and many fans in South Florida, was not in Santa Clara, Calif., with his team on Sunday for their International Champions Cup opener against Manchester United. Nor is he expected for Wednesday’s game against Manchester City in Los Angeles.
But ICC officials are in contact with Ronaldo and his handlers, and they remain optimistic that he will make it to Miami for Saturday’s game.
“We are doing everything we can to get him here,” said Daniel Stillman, the CEO of the ICC. “We are still hopeful that he will make it.”
Ronaldo, 32, has been on an extended summer vacation after a long season with Real Madrid, the June 8 birth of his twins, and a run to the June 28 semifinals of Confederations Cup in Russia with Portugal’s national team. He also is scheduled to testify July 31 at a tax fraud hearing in Spain, leading to rumors that he would not be able to fit El Clasico Miami into his schedule.
Ronaldo spent this past weekend in Asia, fulfilling commercial obligations. He was in Singapore on Friday meeting with friend and billionaire Peter Lim, who owns Spanish club Valencia and also owns Mint Media, which owns Ronaldo’s non-Real Madrid image rights. On Saturday, he went to Shanghai for an endorsement event, and also visited Beijing.
He was reportedly back in Madrid on Monday, but his plans the rest of the week are unknown. The Real Madrid and Barcelona teams and their entourages are due to arrive in Miami on Thursday, after playing games in California Wednesday night. They will be staying within blocks of each other in downtown Miami.
The Barcelona roster for the U.S. tour includes Argentine megastar Lionel Messi (76.4 million Instagram followers), Brazilian star Neymar (who is being wooed by Paris Saint-Germain), Uruguay standout Luis Suarez, and Spaniards Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta.
Among the Real Madrid stars due to be at the game Saturday are Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Wales star Gareth Bale, Crotian Luka Modric, Karim Benzema of France, and Toni Kroos of Germany.
A sellout crowd of 64,767 is expected at Hard Rock Stadium Saturday for the match. A few thousand tickets remained as of Monday afternoon.
More than 40,000 are expected for Wednesday’s game between French club Paris Saint-Germain and Italian team Juventus. PSG has been based in Miami for a week, and held an autograph session Sunday at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which was attended by 300-400 fans, and open training session Monday morning at Barry University.
A crowd of 25,000-plus is expected at the stadium Friday night for Barcelona and Real Madrid training sessions, with tickets ranging from $20-$30. Barcelona is practicing from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Real Madrid trains from 8 to 9:30 p.m.
Casa Clasico, a free fan fest at Bayfront Park downtown with live music and soccer interactive activities, is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Ticket information for all events can be found at www.elclasicomiami.com