‘Neymar exit tough for Barca, but…’

Ernesto Valverde admits Neymar’s exit was “a difficult time” for Barcelona but is confident Ousmane Dembele will ‘announce’ himself.

Neymar sensationally left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain last summer in a world-record, €222m deal, while Dembele’s €145m arrival from Borussia Dortmund was quickly followed by a hamstring injury, which has kept the winger out since September.

“Neymar’s exit? We won’t deny that it was a difficult time for us,” he told Barca TV.

“It had been speculated for a while, and after that it was finalised. It affected our camp a lot.

“We had the bad luck of a very negative result in our first game without him against [Real] Madrid.

“There was a pessimistic feeling around the team, but we overcame it well. I’m delighted with the players we have now. For me, they’re the best.

“Signings? We’re who we are and we’re open to becoming even better. We know that we have to compete in order to be the best.

“In the same way that other clubs worry about improving their squad, so do we to an extent. When that happens, we’ll make an announcement.

“Dembele? Any Barca player is different to the others, and Dembele is a player who has the profile that we were lacking.

“His injury was an added difficulty to the situation we were facing, but we have a big squad and players who have done very well to replace him.

“Now he’s going to re-join the squad as he’s recovered from his injury. At the time, it was a tough blow to take, especially for him, because he’s a very young player and also the tension of the transfer could’ve influenced the injury.

“Still, we’ve solved [his injury] and we’re happy. We believe he’ll be back soon. His position? Taking into account where Messi and Luis [Suarez] play, we have to position ourselves based on the characteristics of these players.

“Ultimately, we know Leo can play anywhere. Our attacks go through him, and we know Dembele can play as a forward or out wide and that he has great pace. He’ll announce himself.”

Tags Ernesto Valverde Neymar Ousmane Dembele