Valverde denies keeping Rakitic sidelined due to transfer rumours

Ivan Rakitic was again left out of the Barcelona team, but Ernesto Valverde says it has nothing to do with rumours of a move away.

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic   -  Getty Images

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 La Liga champion Barca was 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.

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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 visitor 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 its first three games of the season, its 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."

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Valverde was delighted with the impact of Fati, who became Barca's youngest La Liga 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."

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