Valverde says increased competition for places in Barca midfield may lead to sales

Ernesto Valverde Barcelona 2019-20
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The Spanish champions have added to their engine room and the arrival of Frenkie de Jong may lead to sales, says the head coach

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has suggested that the club may look to move on some players, especially in a congested midfield.

The Blaugrana signed Frenkie de Jong this summer from Ajax for €75 million (£65m/$85m). The 21-year-old has already settled into a starting role in the middle of the park in pre-season.

Riqui Puig, 19, has also starred in friendlies this summer and may be ready to make an impact in the first team.

Add those two to a cast that already included Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Arthur Melo, Rafinha and Arturo Vidal, and the Camp Nou engine room looks well-stocked, perhaps overly so.

Valverde recognised this issue, but was unable to shed light on what moves, if any, might be made.

“There are quite a few players in midfield,” the coach said after his team defeated Arsenal in the Joan Gamper Trophy on Sunday.

“We’ll see if something happens. I don’t know if any sales or signings will be completed.

“This year there is more competition,” he said in response to a question about Vidal’s future.

The Chile international only signed for Barca last season, but was a somewhat peripheral figure even before the arrival of De Jong and emergence of Puig.

Reports in Spain have linked him and Rakitic with a move away from Catalunya.

Arturo Vidal Barcelona 2018-19

The Primera Division champions squeezed past Arsenal in Sunday’s game. They were grateful to an Ainsley Maitland-Niles own goal and a last-minute Luis Suarez goal to cancel out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener for the Gunners.

De Jong impressed throughout and the Netherlands international, so inspirational in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals last year, won the Man of the Match award, and the praise of his new boss.

“He’s curious and always wants to improve,” Valverde said of De Jong.

“He’s always demanding and always wants the ball. He doesn’t overplay in tough situations.

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“He can work harder and give us more speed. He’s a good signing.”

Barca superstar Lionel Messi took to the Camp Nou pitch after the game to address the crowd. Although he fell short of guaranteeing Champions League glory, as he did this time last year, he said he had “no regrets” about those comments.

The Blaugrana were eliminated in the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League in a famous comeback by eventual champions Liverpool.