Ernesto Valverde Hits Out at Media Speculation After Benching Ivan Rakitic (Again) for Osasuna Loss

?Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was irked by suggestions Ivan Rakitic is close to an exit after the midfielder was left on the bench for a third consecutive game.

A late penalty from Roberto Torres denied La Blaugrana victory over Osasuna on Saturday, with Rakitic an unused substitute as his side’s stuttering start to 2019/20 continued. The Croatian has been linked with a transfer away from Catalunya for much of the summer, though the transfer window is due to close on 2nd September for most leagues in Europe.

Ivan Rakitic

Rakitic has been an integral figure at ?Barça since arriving from Sevilla for a fee of £18m in 2014. He has made a total of 269 appearances for the club, playing in over 50 matches in each of his five campaigns at the Nou Camp.

Speaking after his men ?drew 2-2 at Estadio El Sadar, Valverde was asked whether the 31-year-old’s exclusion from the starting lineup meant he would soon be departing, with the Spaniard replying (as quoted by ?Sport): “What do you want me to say?

Last year he was playing and Nelson [Semedo] was on the bench. The other day he played well and we stuck with the same team, with Sergi Roberto in midfield. We have a lot to choose from. It’s a great question, but it could be about anyone.”

The Blaugrana boss also took the time to praise 16-year-old goalscorer Ansu Fati, who grabbed the leveller in Pamploma having been brought on at half-time.

Anssumane Fati

Discussing the winger’s eye-catching performance, Valverde stated: “We thought we lacked a spark [before we made the substitution]. 

“He’s a young player and there are a lot of good things about him: dribbling, confidence, he forces the opposition back. He came on when we were losing, at a tough ground, and he responded well.”

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