New York (AFP) – Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde swatted down talk of star striker Neymar departing for a world-record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, dismissing “rumors” Friday and saying the squad wants him to stay.
Amid reports Neymar’s future at the Camp Nou is in doubt, Valverde says the Brazil international is beloved and wanted at Barca for years to come.
“This is a time of rumors. We understand it’s how it is,” Valverde said. “He is with us right now. One of us. It’s a player we love and we want. Not only football-wise, but also for the things he brings to the locker room.
“It’s only rumors. There’s no need to worry about something we don’t know if it’s going to happen or not. If it happens in the future, we’ll see. But no need to worry about it now.”
The comments came as Barcelona opened a US exhibition tour to prepare for the upcoming campaign.
They face Juventus on Saturday in New Jersey, Manchester United on Wednesday in suburban Washington and El Clasico rival Real Madrid in Miami on July 29.
Barcelona midfielder and captain Sergio Busquets also shrugged off talk of Neymar departing as rumor.
“It’s a period of rumors and there’s a lot of news going on,” Busquets said. “He’s the only one who knows. If he has to say something he will. There’s nothing I have to tell him. He already knows where he is. I don’t think he could be in any better place. I hope he stays here for many years.”
Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano called Brazilian star Neymar the future of the Spanish giants, telling ESPN on Friday that he hopes the 25-year-old striker stays as well.
“In the case of Ney, obviously he is young, and I hope he’s here with Barcelona for many more years,” Mascherano said in a posting on the US-based sports network’s website.
“He is a really important player for the club. Because of his age, he’s the future of the club, and we hope we can keep on counting on him.”
Reports suggest Neymar has already told Barca teammates he wants to move, but Mascherano says such talk has not affected the Brazilian, who has scored 105 goals in 186 matches for Barcelona and 52 goals in 77 caps for his country.
“He’s accustomed to the pressure and people talking,” Mascherano said. “There’s always going to be rumors and news around him.”
Asked what advice he might have for Neymar after his own pondering of a move to Juventus a year ago, the Argentine said he sees Neymar enjoying Spain.
“It’s really difficult to give advice,” Mascherano said. “Firstly, I’m not anyone to be giving advice and secondly, I see him really happy here, really happy.”