Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique says Andres Iniesta will have the final decision on his Camp Nou future.
The 32-year-old, whose contract expires next year, stated this week he will only sign a new deal if he feels he is still “important” to LaLiga’s champions.
A report in Spain has claimed Iniesta has already rejected two offers from clubs in the Chinese Super League, including a deal that would see him earn a staggering €35million after tax per season.
Luis Enrique believes the World Cup and European Championship winner could consider a new challenge, much as Xavi did when he left in 2015 to join Al Sadd, but the Barca boss feels the Spain midfielder’s future is in his own hands.
“I think we saw the best version of Iniesta at the start of the season but he has suffered two big injuries,” he told a news conference. “Now he looks to be on that same path again and he’s going to bring us a lot.
“You have to trust in Iniesta’s words. There are two options when you reach the end of your career: one is to retire at Barca, and the other is to try something new, like Xavi. But only Iniesta can decide that.”
Héroe!!! Grande!!! pic.twitter.com/ROZiyKPJpE
— Andrés Iniesta (@andresiniesta8) March 9, 2017
Barca travel to Mestalla to face Valencia on Sunday knowing they will be five points adrift of leaders Real Madrid by the time they kick off if Zinedine Zidane’s side beat Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Luis Enrique, however, expects the title race to continue until the closing stages of the season.
“We’re still involved in deciding this LaLiga and, as in previous seasons, it’ll be decided at the end,” he said. “I believe that it will finish in a very similar way to other seasons.”
Barca loanee Munir El Haddadi has struggled for consistency at Valencia this term – although he did score in the 1-1 draw with Sporting Gijon last week – but Luis Enrique has faith he will develop into a top player.
“Munir needs to have minutes,” he said. “He is very young and has a lot of potential. I’m sure he will improve.”
Barca have been drawn against Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals in a repeat of the 2015 decider, a game in which the Catalans triumphed 3-1 to secure a treble at the end of Luis Enrique’s first season in charge.
The 46-year-old believes Juve are a stronger team than they were two years ago and expects a stern challenge.
“In the quarter-finals, you can’t expect not to meet a big side,” he said. “Everyone has the final in Berlin in mind, but [although] they have changed players, they are still a fearsome opponent.
“They have different options. In the last few games, they’ve played a 4-2-3-1, but ultimately it depends on the function of the players. I’m more worried about the collective than by individuals.”
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