La Liga: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde hopeful Andres Iniesta will stay at club amid China speculation

Madrid: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is hopeful Andres Iniesta will stay at Barcelona following reports his captain has offers on the table to move to China at the end of the season.

File image of FC Barcelona's Andres Iniesta. AP

File image of FC Barcelona's Andres Iniesta. AP

"I can't comment on every story in every newspaper. This has not happened, and we want Andres to stay, to keep scoring and creating goals for us," Valverde said at a press conference on Friday ahead of the trip to Eibar in La Liga.

Barcelona daily Sport claimed on Friday that Iniesta, 33, has an offer to join Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League worth as much as 35 million euros ($43.5 million) per season.

Scorer of the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, Iniesta signed a "lifetime contract" with Barca last October.

However, he will be 34 in May and Barca's move to sign Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool last month in a 160 million-euro deal indicated that they are planning for a future without him.

Javier Mascherano left Barca at the end of January to join Chinese side Hebei China Fortune.

Asked if he was worried about more of his players being tempted to accept mega-bucks offers from the Far East, Valverde said: "At the moment it has only happened with Mascherano and I am not going to make myself go crazy thinking about these things before they have happened."

He added: "We have not got time to think about these just now given all that we are playing for."

Barca face in-form Eibar at Ipurua on Saturday looking to continue their unbeaten record in La Liga this season and consolidate their lead at the top of the table, which is currently seven points over Atletico Madrid.

The Catalans face Chelsea in the Champions League next Tuesday, but they come into the weekend fresh from a first free midweek in 2018.

"We have had a clear week and we needed that just to have a bit of a margin and get ready to go again," said Valverde, whose side have drawn their last two league outings against Espanyol and Getafe.

"After our draw the other day, tomorrow's match (Saturday) is even more important.

"We have not won anything yet. The season is going very well but it all depends on the dynamic. There is still a long way to go."

Valverde, who has Thomas Vermaelen back in training again, believes the fact that Chelsea were due to play their FA Cup tie against Hull City on Friday night gives them an advantage ahead of the Champions League last 16, first leg in London.

"Our tiredness has been mental more than physical, but this extra day that Chelsea have, from a physical point of view, gives them an advantage."

Asked if he would have liked the Eibar game to have been moved to Friday, he replied: "I would have liked that."


Updated Date: Feb 17, 2018 15:58 PM

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