Barcelona (AFP) – Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has admitted he did not try to change Andres Iniesta’s mind when the midfielder told him he was leaving around a month ago.
Valverde also said he “does not care” if Real Madrid refuse to give Barca a guard of honour before Sunday’s Clasico, with the hosts coming into the match as La Liga and Copa del Rey champions.
The meeting of Spain’s two biggest teams at the Camp Nou will be Iniesta’s last, after he announced he will be leaving Barcelona at the end of the season.
Iniesta, who is expected to complete a move to China, has been key in recent months but Valverde said there was no point trying to persuade the 33-year-old.
“He told me around a month, a month and a half ago,” Valverde said. “I was not going to say anything, we exchanged opinions, it was a very thoughtful conversation.
“When the person who tells you is someone who has his kind of experience, not like a younger player where you can try to direct him, you don’t try to convince him or make him think more about it.”
Iniesta’s finale will be one of a number of sub-plots running around this weekend’s fixture, which carries minimal significance in terms of the La Liga table.
But the perception of each club’s season is at stake.
Barcelona can add an unbeaten league campaign to their domestic double, while Real are looking to spoil the streak ahead of what they hope will be a triumphant Champions League final later this month.
“La Liga, for coaches, is the one that tells you how a team has been for the whole year. In the end, the best one wins,” Valverde said.
“In the Champions League, more factors come into play – good luck, bad luck, sometimes in the Champions League there are more candidates able to win.
“I’ll take everything. When you analyse it, you always think about what you have lost.”
Valverde was reluctant to be drawn on the bubbling issue of the guard of honour after Zidane had repeated on Saturday Real would not perform one this weekend.
Zidane attributed his reasoning to Barca, who refused to make the gesture for Real in December after Los Blancos had won the Club World Cup.
“We’ve already talked a lot about that and it certainly is not going to be important,” Valverde said. “It seems good to me, I do not care.”
Valverde also tried to downplay the significance of comments made by Luis Suarez, in which the striker appeared to refer to Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann as if he was already a Barcelona player.
“He’s welcome,” Suarez told Radio Uruguay. “He’s not coming to take anyone’s place, but with the ambition to do big things with the best club in the world. I’m proud Barca keep signing players of such quality.”
Valverde said: “I have no doubt that he is speaking figuratively because we are all respectful of an opponent’s players. Nobody takes for granted something we do not know will happen.”
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