Barcelona manager Tata Martino has confirmed his club will enter the transfer market this summer in the wake of Carles Puyol’s departure from the Nou Camp.
Speaking in public for the first time since veteran captain Puyol announced his decision to quit the club earlier this week, Martino admitted he will not choose to stick with the current trio of central defenders – Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra – who have played nearly every game between them this season because of Puyol’s many absences.
Hailing Puyol’s contribution to Barca over many years, Martino said: “I’m probably not the bestplaced person to comment on this, because I’ve only worked with him for seven or eight months, but Carles Puyol is irreplaceable.
“He’s the type of player that a club has only once every so often. He’ll always be in everyone’s heads because he leaves an indelible mark, but life goes on for Barcelona and we will look for a replacement.”
Martino also added with a smile that his own job will not come under threat as Puyol looks for alternative employment, revealing that the defender told him he has no plans to enter into coaching: “No, he told me. I thought he could become a coach, but he said no.”
In addition to a long list of central defenders, Barca have also been linked with reinforcements in a number of other areas on the pitch, with Juventus midfield ace Arturo Vidal one name to feature prominently in speculation.
But Martino brushed the rumours aside, adding: “The only new development is that Puyol has confirmed he’s leaving so the club needs a central defender.
“Vidal is an excellent player, but I haven’t spoken to the club about him or any other footballer.”
In the immediate future, Martino is more concerned about today’s league trip to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid. The hosts’ lowly status in the bottom three belies the fact that they have been in decent form in recent weeks, losing just one of their last six games in a sequence that has included four draws.
“The match concerns me because our opponents are fighting at the bottom of the table and have only lost three games at home all season,” said Martino.
“Due to the internationals it has been a short week and many players arrived back on Thursday and Friday. But we can’t make excuses.”
Martino claims to be unconcerned by star man Lionel Messi’s habit of vomiting on the pitch during games, which resurfaced again during Argentina’s midweek friendly against Romania after also happening on at least two occasions this season with Barca.
Messi has been to see medical experts about the problem and Martino insists it is not serious. “It’s something that’s not normal,” admitted Martino. “But it doesn’t affect his performance.
“It isn’t a cause for concern and it doesn’t affect him at all in terms of doing his job.”
Valladolid are the division’s draw specialists, tying 11 of their 26 games this season including four of their last five, but coach Juan Ignacio Martinez knows it is three-point hauls they need to be getting now if they are to escape the drop.
He said: “Maybe these three points will save our season. There’s still games to come, but it could help influence things with regards confidence and morale.”
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