WASHINGTON • A steal, a twist, a turn, a spin... and a goal. The entire sequence unfolded in about five seconds and lifted the crowd of 80,162 at FedExField to its feet in the way only Neymar can, with a dazzling goal in the 31st minute to lead Barcelona to a 1-0 win over Manchester United in an International Champions Cup friendly on Wednesday.
The goal was a stunner, vintage Neymar, and had many clad in Barcelona colours abuzz for the rest of the night - especially as rumours continue to circulate that he might be heading to Paris Saint-Germain during this transfer window.
"Neymar was very happy, talking to his Manchester United friends outside the locker room just right now," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said after the match.
"He is still with us. Concerning the game, I am happy with the performance and happy that we won against a powerful team such as Manchester United."
Neymar showed a deft touch coupled with awareness - he stole the ball from Antonio Valencia deep in the penalty area to set up his goal. But he was not the only draw on Wednesday night.
The Brazil star, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were all in the starting line-up against United, and fans were treated to an entire first half of play from Barca's trident.
"In the first half, I think there was a high rhythm in regard to both teams having chances in both boxes," Valverde added. "It's clear even though it was a friendly, both teams wanted to win tonight."
There was also more good news for Neymar after he was cleared of any criminal charges in a long-running tax evasion case in Brazil, the player's father said on Wednesday.
"It is with great happiness that we received the news of the shelving of the Public Ministry's case of tax evasion," Neymar's father wrote in a statement sent to Reuters.
"The process is officially closed (and) that proves the legality of all our acts."
Brazil's federal tax office charged Neymar in 2015 with evading 63 million reais (S$27.2 million) in taxes due on income earned from the Santos and Barcelona football clubs and sponsors between 2011 and 2014.
Neymar appealed last year and a court ruling in his favour in March halved the penalty of 200 million reais in fines, back taxes and interest that had been levied.
The 25-year-old had still faced the prospect, however, of a separate criminal prosecution brought by federal authorities. This has now been shelved, his father said.
"These were four years of unfounded accusations that me, my family and the employees of my companies suffered through, in every possible way," Neymar's father added.
"Although many people doubted it, there is justice in our country. Charge by charge, one after the other, they were knocked down by our defence, leaving it explicitly clear that we did not avoid paying one cent of tax."
Barcelona will play Real Madrid in Miami tomorrow.
It will be only the second time the Spanish giants have met outside Spain and their first meeting in the United States.
WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS