Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has debunked rumours linking Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar with a sensational return to Catalonia.
The 31-year-old has fallen out of favour with the powers that be in the French capital, and he is widely expected to follow in Lionel Messi’s footsteps and leave this summer.
Neymar played his part in helping PSG retain their Ligue 1 crown after registering 13 goals and 11 assists in 20 league games before suffering a season-ending injury in February.
The Brazilian then skipped PSG’s title coronation to attend the Monaco Grand Prix, which further infuriated the club hierarchy, who are now willing to cut ties with the dazzling winger.
Neymar has been linked with a move to Chelsea, with the club in talks with his representatives, but an eye-catching return to Barca has also been mooted.
However, Xavi insists the Brazil international is not on the club’s shopping list, with the Blaugranas keen to spread their extremely limited transfer budget judiciously.
“What is said about Neymar is a surprise,” Xavi said in an interview with Jijantes. “In theory, he is not in the plan. I appreciate him very much, but there are other priorities.”
Barca are in the market for a defensive midfielder which is Xavi’s priority after Sergio Busquets’ departure, and the manager has insisted that the club may require at least two new players in that position.
Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi headlines a list of high-profile targets the Blaugranas have on their radar, while Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich has also been linked with a switch to Spotify Camp Nou.
“The pivot that comes has to win many duels, not lose position and be physical – it must be of an excellent profile,” Xavi added.
“Names like Zubimendi, Kimmich, [Sofyan] Amrabat always come out – it’s normal. What you have to do is try to decide what’s best for Barca. The substitute for Busquets has to be of a high level. Perhaps we also need one more striker.”
Xavi guided Barca to their first league title in four years, but the Spanish tactician is under no illusions about the difficulty of the task that lies ahead in rebuilding the squad to defend their crown and compete in Europe.
The club’s economic situation could prove a stumbling block to realising those ambitions, but Xavi remains optimistic that his side can compete for the biggest prizes on offer next term.
“I’m sorry to be heavy, but we need to reinforce ourselves,” Xavi said. “I try to be honest. If we want to compete at a European level, we must strengthen ourselves well.
“I am very excited that next year we can compete for all the titles. The economic situation we have inherited is very difficult. We will see how we can strengthen ourselves. We have to fight for everything.”
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