Barcelona legend Ronaldinho admits he would be happy to see compatriot Neymar return to the Camp Nou.
The 26-year-old left the Catalans in a record-breaking €222 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017.
Ronaldinho who during his career went in the opposite direction, from PSG to Barcelona, wants to see his countryman back with the Blaugrana instead of joining arch-rivals Real Madrid – a move which has been heavily speculated since.
However, the Brazilian World Cup winner does not believe a return is on the cards.
“The important thing is that Neymar is happy,” Ronaldinho told Marca.
“I like that my friends are always happy but, personally, I would be happier if he returned to Barcelona.
“But it’s something I don’t think will happen.”
Rafinha was one of the stars of Barcelona‘s pre-season before fading into the background as soon as the real action kicked off.
However, Ernesto Valverde insists there is still a big role for the tough-tackling midfielder to play at the Nou Camp this season after a loan move failed to materialise before transfer deadline day.
The 25-year-old is reported to be aggrieved that Barca did not sanction a move to one of Inter Milan – where he enjoyed a productive six months on loan last term – Benfica or Real Betis.
It is understood that Rafinha has also turned down a new contract offer to stay with Blaugrana, with his contract set to expire in June 2020.
But Valverde believes the wantaway enforcer can still carve out a role in Barcelona – as long as he does enough to catch his eye.
“It’s not easy to work with players who want to play more,” said Valverde ahead of Barca’s clash against Huesca on Sunday night. “That’s not just Rafinha, it’s all players they all want to play as much as possible. We have spoken this week but they are private conversations, different ideas about what could happen.
“Ultimately he’s staying and I think that’s good news for us. He’s a player who can do a lot for us.
“Let’s see how he progresses, a lot depends on what I can see from him in training and playing games. He’s a player who has a lot to offer that’s why we want him here.”
La Liga title holders Barcelona get back to action on Sunday evening with a home game against newly-promoted Huesca, who have made a great start to the season with a win and a draw from their opening two games.
Barca will look to head into the impending international break on a high by retaining their 100 per cent record, but the confident visitors will be determined to spring a major upset.
Here we take a look at three of the big talking points ahead of the Camp Nou clash.
Misfiring Suarez under pressure
Barcelona are perfectly happy with their start to the season after following up an opening day home win over Alaves with last weekend’s 1-0 victory on the potato-field pitch of Real Valladolid, but coach Ernesto Valverde still has one significant cause for concern: the poor form of Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan striker has been well below his best so far this season, failing to find the target and producing several heavy touches and badly-directed passes to the frustration of team-mates and fans, who aimed some moans and groans towards Suarez during his lacklustre display against Alaves in the last home game.
With Paco Alcacer departed to Borussia Dortmund on a season-long loan, the only other striker in the squad to compete with Suarez is youngster Munir El-Haddadi, but Valverde is clearly committed to giving his first-choice frontman the chance to play himself into form.
A goal or two before the international break – which will see Suarez join up with Uruguay for a friendly meeting with Mexico – is exactly what the veteran forward needs to boost his confidence…and to allay the fears of fans that he is starting to enter an irreversible dip.
Alba with a point to prove?
One of the least high-profile members of Barca’s team will be claiming more of the spotlight than usual, with left-back Jordi Alba making headlines on Friday after being excluded from the first Spain squad named by new boss Luis Enrique.
The selection of Valencia’s Jose Gaya ahead of Alba represents a huge snub for the Barca player, who has been an unquestioned first choice at international level ever since he broke into the team in 2011, winning 66 senior caps, but who suffered a serious falling out with Enrique during the new La Roja coach’s final season at the Camp Nou.
The decision to omit Alba smacks of a personal vendetta against a player who is surely better than only the third-best left-back in Spain, and he will be eager to prove Enrique wrong by producing an influential performance for his club side this weekend – especially through his well-proven ability to link up with Lionel Messi’s diagonal passes by making his trademark lung-busting runs down the left flank.
Barca boss Valverde refused to be drawn on the matter on Saturday evening, insisting that only Enrique can make the decision, but it’s pretty certain that Alba will be playing with an extra spark of fire in his belly.
Confident Huesca in the mood for an upset
Huesca were given little chance of anything other than a long and hard battle against relegation as they headed into their first season in the top flight, but so far they have defied expectations by winning their season opener against Eibar and then battling back from 2-0 down to earn a more than creditable point at Athletic Bilbao.
The Aragon-based side are following a familiar pattern in La Liga over recent years of tiny clubs with similarly minuscule budgets enjoying steady and sustained success to gradually rise into the top flight and then stay there, with Eibar, Leganes and Girona providing the example to follow.
Huesca’s success has been anything but a flash in the pan, with promotion from the third tier in 2015 being followed by the year-on-year improvement of 12th, 6th and then second place finishes to climb into the Primera Division.
They have strengthened well this summer, with manager Leo Franco – a former Argentine international team-mate of Messi – selecting six newly signed players for the first two games. And although they are massive underdogs, Huesca’s self-belief should not be underestimated.