Blaugrana icon Xavi has revealed he was very surprised to see former team-mate Neymar leave the club this summer, given it was something he didn’t see too often during his decorated 17 years at Barcelona.
In an interview with Marca, the midfielder who currently plies his trade for Al Sadd in Qatar, said: “It’s bizarre that a player doesn’t want to stay at Barcelona. It’s very rare.
“It’s been 17 years since Luis Figo left for Real Madrid. As with Neymar, it was his choice at the time.
“I do not know how it happened, if there were meetings, conversations… there are many interpretations of this transfer record.”
Xavi also said he expected the Brazilian to offer a farewell to Barelona fans and explain his reasons in detail for leaving.
The 37-year-old added: “I understand the fans are upset because Neymar gave no explanation.
“He left Barcelona without a press conference or anything… but hey, that’s how it is.
“We’ll see what he can give to PSG. What I’m sure of is that Barcelona did not expect a club to pay the 222 million euro release clause.”Now they have to manage that money.”
Barcelona host rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday badly in need of a morale-boosting win following the world-record sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.
Despite banking €222m for the Brazilian, Barca’s scattergun approach to finding a replacement has so far been unsuccessful with bids for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele of Borussia Dortmund so far rebuffed.
New Barca coach Ernesto Valverde must therefore try to down the European and Spanish champions with a weaker squad than the one which missed out to Real for the La Liga title last season.
However, Barca did manage to beat Madrid without the then suspended Neymar the last time the sides met in competitive action back in April as Lionel Messi won an incredible encounter 3-2 with the last kick of the game.
The Catalans also edged last month’s Miami friendly between the two in Neymar’s last game for Barca 3-2.
Valverde’s men completed a perfect pre-season on the field with a fourth straight win by sweeping aside Chapecoense 5-0 on Monday in a match to raise funds for the stricken Brazilian club who lost 19 players and 24 club officials in a plane crash last year.
“We’ve had a good pre-season and we are coming into the game in good condition,” said Valverde.
“But on Sunday the real thing starts, with a competitive game and a title at stake against our biggest rivals.”
Gerard Deulofeu was handed Neymar’s role alongside Messi and Luis Suarez up front against Chapecoense on his return to the club after spells at Everton and AC Milan.
And the Spanish international took his chance with a goal and two assists in just 45 minutes on the field.
“It is always a pleasure to play here and even more so with these players,” said Deulofeu.
Valverde is likely to stick with Deulofeu, but the former Athletic Bilbao coach could also strengthen Barca’s midfield by sacrificing a forward to add Sergi Roberto to the normal midfield three of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta.
Despite failing to win any of their pre-season games, Madrid started the new campaign as they ended last season with another trophy as Zinedine Zidane’s men proved too strong for Manchester United to win the UEFA Super Cup 2-1 on Tuesday.
Casemiro and Isco were on target as Madrid’s midfield dazzled in Skopje, Macedonia, but Zidane will be forced into at least one change from the side that started in midweek as Luka Modric is suspended.
Should Zidane wish to maintain the 4-4-2 system he has utilised to huge success in 2017, Mateo Kovacic is the favourite to replace his Croatian teammate in midfield.
However, Modric’s absence increases Cristiano Ronaldo’s chances of returning to the Madrid starting XI after making just a brief cameo appearance as a substitute against his former club in Macedonia.
Ronaldo only returned to training with his teammates last weekend on their return from a tour of the USA having been given an extended break following Portugal’s participation in the Confederations Cup and a court appearance in Madrid over allegations of tax evasion.
Turkey and Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan on Friday said he was ready to return to national team duty, two months after announcing his retirement from international football following a bust-up with former coach Fatih Terim.
Turan, Turkey’s captain and standout player of the last decade, had in June been thrown out of a training camp by Terim following a fracas with a reporter on a plane.
But the situation changed after Terim this month stepped down, also in the wake of fisticuffs — in this case at a Turkish kebab restaurant.
He was replaced by veteran Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu who immediately opened talks with Turan in the hope of acquiring his services for Turkey’s remaining four World Cup qualifiers.
“From now on, I want it to be known that I would feel honoured to have the national jersey on my back when the coach thinks it appropriate,” Turan wrote on his Instagram account by a picture of the Turkish number 10 shirt.
“I want to be by the side of my teammates in these difficult four games that remain,” added the 30-year-old.
He praised the support of Turkish Football Federation (TFF) president Yildirim Demiroren and Lucescu which led him to reconsider his decision.
Turan joined Barcelona in 2015 after four successful seasons with Atletico Madrid. Although he has struggled to earn a regular first team berth, his performances are followed with intense interest in Turkey.
After his move to Barca, the authorities in the gritty Istanbul district of Bayrampasa announced that they had named the street where he grew up “Arda Turan Street” in his honour.
Turan has also made no secret of his support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attending rallies to back “my commander-in-chief” in the wake of the failed coup bid last year.
Turkey face a nail-biting struggle to qualify for Russia 2018, currently in third place in their qualifying group, two points behind Croatia and Iceland.
They have four more matches, starting with an away clash against Ukraine, who they lead on goal difference, on September 2.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Turan wants to leave Barcelona and join his former club Atletico Madrid. The Turkish international though has also attracted interest from Galatasaray.
Provided by AFP Sport