Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said he would not risk an unfit Lionel Messi in Friday’s La Liga opener against Athletic Bilbao and continued to be non committal about Neymar re-joining the club from Paris St Germain.
Barca’s all-time top scorer and captain Messi injured his calf in training before his side’s brief pre-season tour of the United States and has not yet returned to full training a day before his side visit Athletic. Videos emerged on Thursday of the Argentine getting up to speed in individual training sessions on sand but Valverde said there was no chance he would gamble with Messi’s fitness.
“We never like to risk any players and much less someone like Leo,” Valverde told a news conference on Thursday. “He still hasn’t returned to training with the team and while we are happy with his progress, individual training is very different to playing a match. We are going to wait and see.”
Barca have spent over 200 million euros on signings including Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann but continue to be linked with a second swoop for Neymar, two years after he left the Catalans for PSG for a world record 222 million euros ($246 million).
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