Valverde denies keeping Rakitic sidelined due to transfer rumours

By Sports Desk August 31, 2019

An irritated Ernesto Valverde denied he is leaving Ivan Rakitic out of his Barcelona team due to uncertainty about the midfielder's future.

Rakitic was an unused substitute on Saturday as LaLiga champions Barca were held to a 2-2 draw away to Osasuna.

The Croatia international has only played 44 minutes this season, as a substitute in the 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao, amid persistent talk he has been offered to Paris Saint-Germain as part of a proposed deal to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou.

Barca head coach Valverde, though, insisted his team selections are purely tactical.

"What do you want me to say?" he told reporters when asked about Rakitic. "Last year he was playing and Nelson [Semedo] was on the bench. The other day he played well and we stuck with the same team, with Sergi Roberto in midfield. We have a lot to choose from.

"It's a great question, but it could be about anyone. The market does not influence my decisions at all. If I think he'll come in handy for a game, I'll play him. I choose depending on the game."

Barca went behind just seven minutes in thanks to Roberto Torres' strike, but 16-year-old Ansu Fati and Arthur put the visitors 2-1 up in the second half.

However, Torres' 81st-minute penalty following a Gerard Pique handball secured a draw for Osasuna at El Sadar to leave Barca with just four points from their first three games of the season, their lowest such return since 2008-09.

"We were not good in the first half but we were good in the second half, we had them pinned back," Valverde said.

"When we got in front, we had the chance to extend our lead, but there was an absurd moment, a penalty, and it's a shame because we had the game there to be won and we should have killed it off.

"It's about imposing ourselves on the opposition. The opponents always press us because it's one of the games of the year for them. You have to know how to control that."

Valverde was delighted with the impact of Fati, who became Barca's youngest LaLiga goalscorer when he buried a header from Carles Perez's cross just six minutes after his introduction.

"He's a forward who takes on the opposition, and he's a good finisher, as he showed with the goal," Valverde said. "We thought we lacked a spark when we brought him on.

"He's a young player, but there are a lot of good things about them: dribbling, confidence, forcing the opposition back. He came on when we were losing, at a tough ground, and he responded well."

Related items

  • FIFA 20: Aguero & Ibrahimovic included in first Ultimate Scream pack FIFA 20: Aguero & Ibrahimovic included in first Ultimate Scream pack

    Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been included in FIFA 20's first Ultimate Scream pack ahead of Halloween.

    EA Sports announced the release of the FIFA Ultimate Team cards on Friday, with Manchester City striker Aguero and LA Galaxy star Ibrahimovic among the standout names.

    Top-rated Aguero is joined in the first batch by fellow Premier League players Dele Alli, Nicolas Otamendi and Bernard, with a second group of players to be released next Friday.

    Below, we have the list of FUT cards that are up for grabs.

    FUT Ultimate Scream pack

    LM: Bernard (Everton) - 84

    CB: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City) - 85

    LM: Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund) - 85

    CAM: Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig) - 85

    CB: Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan) - 86

    CDM: William Carvalho (Real Betis) - 86

    CAM: Dele Alli (Tottenham) - 87

    CAM: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid) - 88

    CAM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) - 88

    ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) - 88

    ST: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) - 91

  • Nice 1-4 PSG: Mbappe stars on return as leaders see off nine-man opponents Nice 1-4 PSG: Mbappe stars on return as leaders see off nine-man opponents

    Kylian Mbappe scored one and set up another on his return to action as Paris Saint-Germain claimed a 4-1 win against Nice, who finished Friday's Ligue 1 match with nine men.

    The France forward, who sat out the international break due to a hamstring issue, replaced Pablo Sarabia in the 83rd minute at Allianz Riviera and helped kill off the game after the hosts threatened a comeback.

    Ignatius Ganago pulled one back for Nice with 23 minutes to play following Angel Di Maria's first-half brace, but their momentum was disrupted by red cards for Wylan Cyprien and Christophe Herelle in quick succession.

    Mbappe then marked his comeback with PSG's third and set up Mauro Icardi for a fourth, sending his five points clear of closest challengers Nantes at the summit.

  • Messi: PSG star Neymar not wanted at Barcelona by some Messi: PSG star Neymar not wanted at Barcelona by some

    Lionel Messi believes a return to Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar is "complicated" because some people do not want him back at the club.

    Neymar attempted to engineer a return to Camp Nou during the previous transfer window, just two years after leaving for the Ligue 1 side in a world-record €222million deal.

    The strained relationship between the two clubs was said to have impacted transfer discussions, however, and the Brazil international remains a PSG player.

    Messi starred in a front three alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez and they remain in contact, but the Argentina star is unsure if a reunion at Barca will be possible.

    "We talk often and we have a group chat with Luis Suarez," Messi told Buenos Aires radio station Metro 95.1. 

    "The issue of his return is complicated. Firstly, because it was difficult to see him leave, secondly because of how he left.

    "There are people from the club and members who do not want him to return. If it is for sporting reasons, Neymar is one of the best in the world, but I understand the other factors."

    Messi, presented with the European Golden Shoe for a sixth time this week, recently declared he intends to see out the remainder of his career at Barcelona.

    However, unlike fellow club icon Andres Iniesta, he has ruled out signing a lifetime contract

    "That was talked about a while ago, as was done with Iniesta and the others," he said.

    "I don't want a contract to tie me up because I don't know how I'm going to feel. I don't want to be [under contract] if I'm not well.

    "I'm going to compete as long as I feel good physically, but obviously I would stay a lifetime."

    Messi also opened up on his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo, who he competed with for team and individual honours for just short of a decade during the Portuguese forward's time at Real Madrid.

    Ronaldo moved to Juventus in 2018 and Messi admits Barca's Clasico showdowns with Madrid have lost some lustre as a result.

    "Yes, it was good when he was in the Spanish league," Messi said.

    "It made the Clasicos more special and gave them more value."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.