Ernesto Valverde rejects prospect of Barcelona return for Neymar

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has dismissed reports suggesting Neymar could leave Paris Saint-Germain and return to the Catalan giant as “fantasy”.

In the same week that PSG crashed out of the Champions League, and only seven months after he joined the club for a world record 222million euros ($264 million), Neymar´s future has grown uncertain.

Spanish sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo claims the Brazilian, recovering from surgery on a broken foot in Brazil, has made contact with Barca to ask how he can engineer a return.

The article adds Neymar has explained he made a mistake in leaving the club, was wrong to want independence from Lionel Messi and has been disappointed by the standard of opposition in Ligue 1.

Asked about the reports on Friday, Valverde said: “It seems to me a fantasy and we do not know where it came from or where it will end.

“It is a fantasy and we are not going to speak about rumours when we know it would not end here.”

Neymar Jr looks on

Barca, however, is not the only club Neymar is reportedly targeting as a potential way out of PSG.

Madrid-based newspaper AS reports Neymar´s father has met with Real Madrid, who are ready to pay 400million euros to sign the striker.

Real coach Zinedine Zidane said on Friday: “Neymar could play in all the clubs because he is very good, like many players.

“I´m not going to talk about a player that is not mine. On the 400 million, they paid 220 million and when they bought me they paid 72.

“It seemed crazy to me and 10 years later they are paying 220 million. It may well be that in the next 10 years someone will pay 400m, or sooner, I do not know.”

Mundo Deportivo concedes Neymar´s courting of Barcelona may even be a tactic to justify a move to Real, given the Catalan club are likely to reject any chance to re-sign the 26-year-old.

Barcelona are still embroiled in a financial dispute over a bonus due to Neymar last summer, which the club cancelled when they believe it became clear he was moving to PSG.

Neymar missed PSG’s last 16 loss to Real on Tuesday after undergoing surgery on a broken foot in Brazil last week.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Neymar wants to return to Barcelona from PSG - reports

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Neymar already regrets moving to Paris Saint-Germain and is seeking a shock return to Barcelona, according to reports in the Spanish media on Friday.

In the same week that PSG crashed out of the Champions League, and only seven months after he joined the club for a world record 222million euros ($264 million), Neymar’s future has become uncertain.

Spanish sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo claims the Brazilian, recovering from surgery on a broken foot in Brazil, has made contact with Barca to ask how he can engineer a return.

The article adds Neymar has explained he made a mistake in leaving the club, was wrong to want independence from Lionel Messi and has been disappointed by the standard of opposition in Ligue 1.

Barca, however, is not the only club Neymar is reportedly targeting as a potential way out of PSG.

Madrid-based newspaper AS reports Neymar´s father has met with Real Madrid, who are ready to pay 400million euros to sign the striker.

Asked about the speculation on Friday, Real coach Zinedine Zidane said: “Neymar could play in all the clubs because he is very good, like many players.

“I’m not going to talk about a player that is not mine. On the 400 million, they paid 220 million and when they bought me they paid 72.

“It seemed crazy to me and 10 years later they are paying 220 million. It can be that in the next 10 years someone will pay 400m, or sooner, I do not know.”

Mundo Deportivo concedes Neymar’s courting of Barcelona may even be a tactic to justify a move to Real, given the Catalan club are likely to reject any chance to re-sign the 26-year-old.

Barcelona are still embroiled in a financial dispute over a bonus due to Neymar last summer, which the club cancelled when they believe it became clear he was moving to PSG.

Neymar missed PSG’s last 16 loss to Real on Tuesday after undergoing surgery on a broken foot in Brazil last week.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Barcelona visit Malaga with Chelsea firmly in mind while Real Madrid face Eibar

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Barcelona enjoy breathing space again at the top of La Liga and Ernesto Valverde can afford to keep one eye on Chelsea when his side visit bottom club Malaga on Saturday.

While the Catalans’ 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid last weekend extended the gap at the summit to eight points, their advantage over Chelsea in the Champions League is more precarious.

Barca take a 1-1 draw, and an away goal, to the Camp Nou on Wednesday but Chelsea controlled much of the first leg in London and will fancy their chances of an upset.

With Andres Iniesta already nursing a hamstring injury and Denis Suarez out with a groin strain, Valverde will be wary of further damage against a Malaga side without a victory in 15 attempts.

It means key players are likely to be rested and others given the opportunity to stake a claim, particularly in attack, where the third spot next to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez is yet to be established.

Ousmane Dembele has endured a difficult debut season, plagued by problems with fitness and form, but the forward has shown signs of improvement and played in the Catalan Super Cup win over Espanyol on Wednesday.

Ousmane Dembele 1

“He tried to get involved in play and has worked on individual moves,” Valverde said.

“This is useful, little by little, we hope he translates it into La Liga games.”

Dembele is jostling for position with the creative Philippe Coutinho, preferred against Atletico, and Paulinho, who offers the most defensive resilience from the front.

Anything but a comfortable win at La Rosaleda Stadium would represent a major shock.

Malaga were, in fact, the last team to beat Barcelona in La Liga, with a 2-0 victory in April, but few players from that triumph are still at the club while the coach, Michel, was sacked in January. His replacement, Jose Gonzalez, has overseen six defeats in a row.

It means Atletico will hold little hope of their deficit being cut this weekend but the challenge for Diego Simeone‘s men is to stay in touch by beating ninth-placed Celta Vigo on Sunday.

A 3-0 thrashing of Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League on Thursday has already recovered the winning feeling, with Atletico registering eight victories on the bounce before they were halted by Messi’s 25-yard free-kick.

After the win over Lokomotiv, Simeone was asked about taking charge at Paris Saint-Germain next season and he indicated his focus by replying: “Celta.”

Zinedine Zidane reacts

Real Madrid, meanwhile, swap Paris Saint-Germain and the Parc des Princes for Eibar and the Ipurua Municipal Stadium, the smallest stadium in La Liga with a capacity of just over 7,000.

Zinedine Zidane‘s team will be flying high after overcoming the biggest assignment of their season in Paris and, like Barcelona, it may be that star players are given time off.

Gareth Bale is unlikely to be among those rested, however, after the Welshman missed out on the starting line-up against PSG. Bale’s reaction this weekend will be significant.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Sevilla host Valencia, needing a victory to reignite their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

Los Rojiblancos sit fifth in the table, eight points behind Valencia, knowing anything but a win this weekend would all-but end their top-four hopes.

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