MIAMI — An excitable, well-heeled crowd gathered in the Brickell City Centre shopping complex, camera phones poised.

Paolo Maldini, the legendary Italian soccer player, smiled back. He was in good company: a handful of current stars of the world game — Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrés Iniesta and Luis Suárez — were there, too.

Well, at least their faces were. Faces made out of moss.

“Soccer is the most powerful sport in the world,” said Paloma Teppa, the founder of the botanical art gallery Plant the Future, who had created the works with the local muralist Andrew Antonaccio. “So combining it with Mother Nature is a wonderful thing.”

Teppa, an Argentine, said she was unsure if any of the Barcelona and Real Madrid players in town for a match this weekend had seen the portraits, but it hardly seemed to matter.

The seeds of soccer fascination had been sown wide here for the past few weeks as everyone, it seems — artists and performers, reporters and marketers, small shops and big brands — tried to attach themselves to Saturday night’s big show: a highly priced matchup between Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona at Hard Rock Stadium. A total of 66,014 people were said to attend, some of them paying $500— or much, much more — for the chance to watch Barcelona’s 3-2 win from the stadium’s upper reaches.

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Antoine Delgado wasn’t all that nervous about Hurricane Matthew. Hurricanes come with the territory when running a restaurant in Miami. But what came after did worry the owner of Brasserie Azur and Villa Azur in Miami: Zika.

It was last summer and the Zika scare was swarming Miami. The epicenter was the hipster Wynwood Arts district – just a mile away from Delgado’s Midtown eatery. Diners stayed in rather than brave the mosquitos and potential of infection. Sales took a nosedive. Then it got even more personal — one of Delgado’s employees became infected.

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