One of the world’s most iconic football brands is set to appear in Australia this year with FC Barcelona close to signing a deal to play a friendly match in Sydney at the end of the season.
The Sydney Morning Herald understands the Australian Professional Leagues is in the final stages of talks to bring the Catalan giants to Australia for the first time, to play an exhibition match against an A-League All Stars team either in late May or early June.
Several A-League sources say talks are advanced and that the five-time European champions have agreed in principle to play the game at the 83,000-capacity Accor Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park at the end of their European season.
Should a deal be finalised in coming weeks, it could secure one of the more high-profile tours of a European club in the recent history of the domestic game, bringing Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves and Frankie de Jong to Australian shores in the infamous Blaugrana shirt.
Several A-League clubs were briefed of the proposal this week with the APL, owners and operators of the A-League, close to securing state government support for the friendly as well as other commercial arrangements. Sources with knowledge of the talks said Barcelona have agreed in principle to play a game at the end of their season which would likely be in the week before or just after the A-League grand final, scheduled for May 28.
It’s understood the potential friendly will be against a combined A-League side, reviving the A-League All Stars concept which has not existed for eight years. The A-League All Stars team was introduced in 2013 to face Manchester United at Sydney Olympic Park and remained for 2014 when Italian giants Juventus toured.
Should the match be played before the A-League grand final, the All Stars team will only include players from teams eliminated from the finals.
The Catalan giants are one of the most popular and successful clubs in world football, having won 26 La Liga championships, 31 Copa Del Rey trophies and five European Champions League titles.
Meanwhile, Sydney FC clinched hosting rights for the A-League women’s grand final with a dramatic 4-2 extra-time victory over Melbourne City, who finished the game with nine players. The Sky Blues were down 2-0 before the hour after Hannah Wilkinson netted a brace for City either side of the break but hit back through substitute Cortnee Vine, who rattled the net with a powerful header in the 73rd minute.
City defender TJ Vlajnich was sent off for a foul on Vine with two minutes to go before Maria Rojas equalised at the death with a poacher’s finish inside the box. Sarah Hunter put Sydney into the lead with a header from a corner in extra time to send the Sky Blues into the final. Vine sealed their passage with a tidy finish on the counter to make it 4-2 before Melbourne goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri was sent off before the end of the game for a challenge outside the box, which means she will miss the preliminary final.