Lionel Messi has been left out of Barcelona's squad for Wednesday's Copa del Rey trip to Sevilla as he is given a rest, but new signing Kevin-Prince Boateng is included.

Messi was absent from Barca's starting XI for the visit of Leganes in LaLiga on Sunday, coming on as a substitute to spare their blushes – playing a role in Luis Suarez's goal before also scoring himself.

Coach Ernesto Valverde acknowledged in the lead up to that game that he was likely to take opportunities to rest Messi in the coming weeks ahead of a busy period, which includes the return of the Champions League.

Sevilla – a team he boasts a fine record against – are the lucky beneficiaries of his time out of the side, as Barca travel to Andalusia for the first leg of their Copa quarter-final.

However. Boateng is in line to make his first appearance for the club.

The Germany-born former Ghana international joined Barca in a shock loan deal from Sassuolo on Monday, a move which caught many by surprise.

The 31-year-old makes his return to Spanish football having previously featured for Las Palmas.

Young talent Riqui Puig is included in the squad as well, with opponents Sevilla aiming to arrest a run of three successive defeats in all competitions.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has defended the arrival of Kevin-Prince Boateng, telling the media they have been critical of "all" signings during his tenure as coach.

Boateng completed an unlikely loan switch from Sassuolo on Monday, with Barca also having the right to purchase him for €8million during his stay.

The signing raised eyebrows throughout world football, with many surprised by Barca opting to sign the journeyman midfielder, whose three most recent clubs were Sassuolo, Eintracht Frankfurt and Las Palmas.

But Valverde pointed out media coverage of Barca's signings during his time at the club has generally been negative, yet few have been deemed failures.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday's Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg at Sevilla, Valverde said: "Since I've been here, all of them are controversial signings, and then...?

"[About] Arturo Vidal, Paulinho, you talked a lot, with Arthur also, then he also gives us a great performance. Things always end up going well.

"The departure of Munir [El Haddadi] is a matter of the club, and we would like to have strikers in the team who score 15 goals, but that's not been the case. Boateng arrives for a few months.

"He knows the trade, a player who, having made a career in other positions, now plays as a number nine, he knows LaLiga and the role he is playing in.

"He was available, Munir left, the club thought he was the best option and I hope he helps us a lot."

Boateng has on occasion been accused of having problems with his attitude, but Valverde insists the former Ghana international has a clean slate at Camp Nou.

"We trust in the presumption of innocence," Valverde said. "We do not want to fight with him, but want him to help us and to score goals. In Las Palmas he had a great year."

One player linked with a move away from Barca is Brazilian winger Malcom, who is said to be interesting Tottenham, among other clubs.

Valverde accepts the former Bordeaux talent could depart, though he feels Malcom has the talent to play for Barca if he commits himself.

"Until January 31, everything can happen," Valverde said. "But we cannot run out of players.

"There are players who play more and others less. Malcom must fight to play more, because he has the qualities to do so. We expect a lot from him."

Ernesto Valverde is convinced the officials made the correct decision in allowing Luis Suarez's goal to stand despite Leganes' protests in Barcelona's 3-1 win on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele will have tests to determine the severity of his sprained left ankle after sustaining the injury in Barcelona's 3-1 win over Leganes on Sunday.

Lionel Messi played an important role off the bench with an assist for Luis Suarez before scoring himself as Barcelona secured a 3-1 win over Leganes at Camp Nou.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde rested Lionel Messi for his side's LaLiga clash with Leganes, naming the club's leading goal-scorer among the substitutes.

Barcelona's links to Frenkie de Jong and Carlos Vela were brushed aside by head coach Ernesto Valverde, who insisted he was not frustrated while waiting for signings.

Highly rated Ajax midfielder De Jong has been touted as a target for Barca and Manchester City, although Paris Saint-Germain are reported to have stolen ahead in their pursuit of the 21-year-old.

Compared to one of the most sought-after young talents in the world, Los Angeles FC's former Arsenal and Real Sociedad forward Vela would represent a more left-field solution to Valverde's desire for extra cover in attack.

"I insist on the same answers – he's a great player who is on another team," the Blaugrana boss said when De Jong was brought up at his news conference prior to Sunday's LaLiga match against Leganes.

"If I start talking about what's going on in the press, it's not going to go away. I'm not going to comment on this. All the respect to De Jong and Ajax."

A reporter from Vela's native Mexico raised the subject of his future and Valverde apologetically chose to be similarly evasive.

Valverde said: "He's a great player. He's played in our league but we don't normally talk about players from other clubs.

"A lot is said about every name that comes up. I can understand, being Mexican, why you are interested but he plays for another club."

On his search for a centre forward, Valverde added: "No, I'm not frustrated. I know the club is working on possibilities but we'll wait and see. It's not as easy as it might appear.

"We'll see if something can be done and if not we'll carry on with the players that we've got. It's not something that we're thinking about all the time but if a name comes up and we can sign him, it's a possibility."

Any new recruit will hope to fare better than former Bordeaux winger Malcom.

The 21-year-old has been restricted to 10 appearances in all competitions since spurning Roma to move to Camp Nou during the close season, with speculation linking him to Tottenham and the Chinese Super League over recent days.

"Of course he wants to play games and score gaols and that is what I want from him," Valverde said.

"He is a player who has a place here at the club. He's a part of the squad like any other player. He's got certain qualities that we want to see on the pitch

"He is a great player, we want to see him be a decisive player."

Ernesto Valverde maintains Barcelona did nothing wrong over the disputed selection of Chumi during the Copa del Rey last-16 tie against Levante.

The 19-year-old defender started the first leg against the Valencia-based club, when Barca were beaten 2-1.

An Ousmane Dembele brace inspired a 3-0 win in the Camp Nou return but Levante appealed to the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) that Chumi should not have featured in the initial game after accumulating five yellow cards for Barcelona's B team in Spain's third tier.

Barca were convinced Chumi was eligible due to a rule change in November that suggests a player can feature for the first team in another competition as long as their suspension for the reserves is less than a two-match ban.

The RFEF ultimately rejected Levante's appeal against elimination because it was filed too late, but Valverde believes Barcelona should not be seen as simply benefitting from a technicality and called for clarity around competition rules.

"A lot has been said about this. I think I made my voice clear when the game ended. We acted correctly," he told a news conference ahead of Sunday's LaLiga match against Leganes.

"If you look at the competition rules we did nothing wrong. Some people may interpret the rules a different way.

"It needs to be made clear – not for the person who is writing the rules but for the people who are reading it.

"I think we have acted correctly and within the law."

On Levante's appeal, Valverde added: "No, we're not worried about this matter, but every club has to defend their interests.

"Levante will do what they think is correct and so shall we. We're just focusing on this game knowing we have another on Wednesday [against Sevilla in the quarter-finals]."

Leganes sprung a surprise when they beat defending LaLiga champions Barca 2-1 in September – a match Valverde wants his players to remember as a warning.

"We played very badly," he said. "It was good during the week and we all had the feeling that we were going to win it but in a minute they scored two goals.

"We have to learn from that. For us it is essential to get the points and start the second round [of the season] well."

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde insisted he is unconcerned over Levante's official complaint regarding their selection of Chumi in the first leg of their Copa del Rey clash.

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde is open to welcoming new recruits in January but remains tight-lipped over the possibility of signing Frenkie de Jong.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is convinced head coach Ernesto Valverde will still be in charge at Camp Nou next season.

Barcelona have rejected a report that claimed Neymar's father has contacted the club regarding setting up a return from Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar joined PSG in a world-record deal in August 2017 but reports he has failed to settle in the French capital have been regular.

Barca captain Lionel Messi has spoken in favour of Neymar heading back to the LaLiga leaders, with reports this week claiming Neymar's father had been in touch over a possible deal.

Ernesto Valverde distanced himself from such reports and club spokesman Josep Vives said at a news conference on Tuesday there was no call from Neymar Sr to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

"In the first place, that's not the case, and Neymar left because that's what he decided, and from there we have nothing more to say," Vives told reporters.

"We never talked about players who have contracts with other clubs, at the time he decided to leave Barca, a completely legitimate decision on his part."

Barca are reportedly trying to sign an attacker during the January transfer window following the sale of Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla, while PSG's financial situation has led to suggestions Neymar could be sold.

Valverde said earlier this month that permanent deals were unlikely to be concluded by the club this month, with Jeison Murillo joining on loan from Valencia to address a defensive injury crisis.

Barca's transfer kitty could be boosted by Paulinho's loan to Guangzhou Evergrande being converted into a permanent deal, however.

Vives told reporters the Chinese Super League side have already paid the fee, reported to be €42million, to complete the transfer.

"We would like to publicly explain the details of such a beneficial operation," he added.

"But we cannot do it because we are subject to a confidentiality clause with the Chinese club.

"The agreement is magnificent, good for the player, also for the Chinese club and very good for Barcelona."

New Sevilla signing Munir El Haddadi claims Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was "forbidden" from playing him by the club's hierarchy after the forward said he did not want to renew his contract.

Ernesto Valverde insisted he had not received a phone call urging him to re-sign Neymar following reports the club had been contacted by the player's father.

El Mundo claimed this week that Neymar Sr had made repeated pleas to the Barca board to bring his son - who joined Paris Saint-Germain for €222million in 2017 - back to Camp Nou.

Neymar Sr subsequently denied the reports and Valverde stressed that, if any calls had taken place, he certainly was not party to them.

"People tend to say big things about players at other clubs," he told a news conference. 

"He is a great player, had a great World Cup, but now he's at a different club, so there's nothing more to say about that.

"It's not a question of Neymar phoning... nobody has phoned me.

"News stories always appear in the press. He's a PSG player and we respect PSG."

Valverde did concede that a forward was high on his January shopping list following the departure of Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla and said he would prioritise a player who could adapt swiftly to life at Barca.

"You probably focus more on a player who can adapt quickly to our team," he explained. 

"When a player comes like [Jeison] Murillo, the first thing you want is for them to adapt quickly, someone who can play straight away. That's if a forward comes."

Pressed on whether Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata could be an option, Valverde commented: "For the same reason as Neymar, I can't comment on that.

"Munir leaving has left a gap, also Rafinha being injured because we often used him as a midfielder going forward.

"We'll see if we can sign any other players but we need to look at the finances, of course. So we'll see if we find someone or not.

"If someone comes or doesn't come, we have B team players as well. We'll see."

 

Ernesto Valverde urged Philippe Coutinho to continue fighting for his position following the playmaker's goal-scoring return to Barcelona's starting XI.

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