Marco Verratti has denied reports that his agent Mino Raiola has sounded out Barcelona over a potential summer move from Paris Saint-Germain.
The 25-year-old midfielder has been a long-time target of the Camp Nou side, with the Catalans close to completing a move last summer.
However, he says that departing the French capital is not in his mind at present.
“I’ve read that Raiola has offered me to Barcelona. That’s a lie,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport . “I’ve spoken to my managers and they know what I think, things are clear. I’ve decided to stay with PSG.”
Indeed, he has even backed Unai Emery’s side to bounce back after their Champions League last-16 elimination to Real Madrid earlier this month.
“Madrid are a tough opponent but we were convinced we’d get by them,” he said. “PSG aren’t far from them.
“Small things made the difference. We played well in the first leg but were two goals down.
“We were also without Neymar, which is like taking Lionel Messi away from Barcelona.”
Verratti faces the prospect of a summer without the World Cup, but though Gian Piero Ventura failed to lead Italy there, he does not believe that makes him a bad coach – just one unsuitable for the task at hand.
“Ventura had a very tactical vision,” he explained. “Maybe that’s okay with a club, but in the national team it’s more difficult to acquire a tactical understanding in a few days.
“Organisation is very important but a national team can’t do everything with tactics. I respect Ventura. He’s a bit like Zdenek Zeman, but if you put Zeman in a national team it would be hard to make everyone understand his ideas in such little time.”
Italy finished second in their qualifying pool before being eliminated by Sweden in the playoffs – and Verratti has hinted that there was a problem with mindset.
“Perhaps we were already thinking of coming second since Spain were in our group. It was in the air the national team breathed. Then the playoffs are difficult,” he said.
“We have to look forward. It’s the players who are most responsible.”