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Football royalty FC Barcelona the big target for 2016 ICC tournament in Melbourne

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Could European Champions FC Barcelona be on their way to Melbourne in 2016?

Real Madrid pulled a massive crowd of 99,382 to the MCG in July of this year when they thumped Manchester City in the final match of the ICC tournament – more than the 98,633 that packed the venerable arena for the Hawthorn v West Coast grand final on Saturday afternoon.

But could their La Liga rivals FC Barcelona match, or even surpass Real’s achievements?

There isn’t much room for improvement, but if the organisers of the ICC competition get their way, then it will be the Catalan giants who are the main drawcard for the mid-winter tournament next year.

German super-club Bayern Munich, serial Bundesgliga champions, are also one of the other big clubs organisers are targeting, it is understood.

And there is a strong chance that a local club – perhaps A-League champions Melbourne Victory – could also be involved to add more domestic interest.

Victory are big drawcards at the MCG, as they proved in the winter of 2013 when they hosted Liverpool and attracted more than 95,000 for the visit of the Premier League side.

This year’s ICC tournament was the first time the competition – which features most of the world’s top clubs playing in a three-cornered series in countries around the world – came to Australia.

Madrid were the headliners alongside English Premier League giants Manchester City – owners of Melbourne City – and Italian side AS Roma. Madrid thumped City in the final game having drawn with Roma in their first match to win the tournament.

Crowds for the two Madrid games were enormous but the middle game, between Roma and Manchester City, pulled just over 40,000, less than half the capacity of the MCG.

To avoid such a situation again, if organisers feel that the games involving the teams “supporting” the main drawcard might not attract a huge crowd they might try to play one of the games either at a smaller venue, such as Etihad Stadium, or perhaps even interstate.

If FC Barcelona do end up coming to Melbourne, it would be the first time the Catalan giants visited Australia.

© The Age | This article was written by Michael Lynch and first appeared in The Age on 4 October 2015.

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