Ernesto Valverde Unsure on Neymar Pursuit, Ivan Rakitic's Barcelona Future

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2019

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar reacts at the end of the French Trophy of Champions football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Rennes (SRFC) at the Shenzhen Universiade stadium in Shenzhen on August 3, 2019. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde is unsure whether the club will bring back Neymar this summer and does not know whether Ivan Rakitic will stay.

Neymar has been linked with a return to Barca throughout the offseason, as well as with a move to Real Madrid, and Valverde discussed him ahead of his side's friendly with Napoli on Saturday:

Goal @goal

Valverde speaks about those Neymar rumours 👀 https://t.co/0IGjKRxhP9

Per Goal's Dejan Kalinic, he said: 

"We'll see what happens. The classic response is that he plays for another team and that's that.

"All I know is that I'm the manager and I only think about the players I have. They are the ones I'll be using tomorrow. 

"As it stands, I don't know what is going to happen."

Neymar spent four years with Barcelona prior to joining PSG in 2017, and during that time he made 186 appearances, scoring 105 goals and assisting 76.

Barca have already signed Antoine Griezmann this summer, but with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez now 32, Neymar's arrival would make them more well-equipped to cope with the pair's natural declines as they enter the twilight of their careers.

Griezmann's arrival makes affording Neymar even more difficult, though, so the club might have to offload one or two high-profile players to make room.

Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne (R) battles for the ball with Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic during the International Champions Cup football match between FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida, on August 7, 2019. (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP
RHONA WISE/Getty Images

One such player could be Rakitic, and Valverde does not know what will happen, per Kalinic: "He is very important for us. His work is there. Right now, I don't know if he will stay. I count on him as I have. In principle, nothing makes me think that I won't be able to count on him." 

The midfielder netted a winner for Barca against Napoli when they played one another on Thursday:

Premier Sports 📺 @PremierSportsTV

🔴🔵 Rakitic gives Barcelona the victory in Miami! ⚽ His goal on 78mins was the difference as Barcelona beat Napoli 2-1! The teams meet again this Saturday at 10pm on Premier Sports 1! https://t.co/eIhPqxCgFb

Football journalist Ben Hayward singled him out for praise:

Ben Hayward @bghayward

Another golazo by Ivan Rakitić last night. Abuse he receives on here from so-called "fans" is shocking: he's one of best signings Barça has made in last 10 years, key to treble in 2014-15, last FCB midfielder to score in CL final... https://t.co/yNiuVBoUOr

Rakitic arrived at the Camp Nou having notched a combined 27 goals and 32 assists in his final two seasons at Sevilla, but he has shown himself to be an exceptional all-rounder at Barcelona, having taken on a more defensive role.

He is 31, though, and Barca also have Sergio Busquets, Arthur, Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig among their midfield options for the upcoming season.

As such, they can afford to part with him if it will enable them to further strengthen their squad with Neymar.