Ernesto Valverde has said Antoine Griezmann is a “great player,” but the manager wouldn’t be drawn on speculation linking Barcelona with a move for the Atletico Madrid forward in January.
However, Valverde once again reiterated that Barca are open to doing business in January, having pushed for Philippe Coutinho and Angel Di Maria until the last day of the summer transfer window.
Coutinho remains the Catalan club’s priority, according to the local press, but there is also reported to be a firm interest in Griezmann.
The France international looked set to leave Atletico in the summer for Manchester United but performed a U-turn, signing a new deal when the Rojiblancos saw their transfer ban upheld.
But the speculation has not gone away and rumours linking Griezmann with a €100 million move to Barca have increased during the international break.
“Griezmann is a great player, one of the names being talked about but for now I have the players that I have,” Valverde said when asked if he wanted the forward at Camp Nou.
“In the future, we will see. Of course, the club, like all clubs, is open to doing business in the January window, even though we’re happy with what we already have. We’re not going to close the door on anything.”
Barca may also be tempted to move for a centre-back following the news this week that Javier Mascherano will miss the next month after getting injured while on Argentina duty.
That leaves Valverde with just Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti — who are both one booking away from a suspension — and the injury-prone Thomas Vermaelen for Saturday’s trip to Leganes.
“We have good centre-backs,” the coach said when asked if he was worried about his options in defence. “Circumstances can never be foreseen and injuries come when you least expect them.
“But that’s why we have a deep squad. We’ll see who plays but we have confidence in Pique, Umtiti and, of course, in Vermaelen. Then there’s the B team, too.”
Valverde also confirmed that Luis Suarez is in good shape for the weekend after the striker sat out the international break in order to focus on recovering from a long-standing knee problem.
A win at Leganes’ Butarque home in Madrid would temporarily take Barca 11 points clear of Real Madrid and Atletico, who meet later on Saturday at the Wanda Metropolitano.
“There’s an important game in Madrid [Atleti vs. Real] but the most important one in Madrid for us is against Leganes,” Valverde added.
“What worries us about Leganes is how few goals they’ve conceded — just one at home in five games. Like Girona, they’re a solid team that believe in what they do and defend well.
“We’re alert before these games. It’s enough to look back at last season to see what happened at these types of grounds where points were lost. Maybe it’s not as glamorous as others, but we know the problems we have had at Girona, Alaves…”