Ernesto Valverde has sought to temper the expectations of Barcelona supporters after another encouraging performance from Ricard Puig, who was among a group of players to leave AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso gushing over the “beauty of football”.
Puig has been introduced as a substitute in each of Barca’s three International Champions Cup matches, and impressed again in the 1-0 loss to the Rossoneri in Santa Clara on Saturday.
Still only 18, there have been calls for the midfielder to feature in the Supercopa de Espana against Sevilla in Tangier.
And while Valverde is satisfied with the efforts of Barca’s fringe players in the absence of the first-team stars afforded an extended break after the World Cup, the coach wants to avoid putting too much pressure on La Masia’s latest graduates.
“Of course, we are happy with the response of all the ‘B’ players who have come in,” he said.
“Riqui [Puig] has played a great second half, [but] we must be calm with the players. We get very excited, it’s about winning the Super Cup, not seeing if Riqui comes or not.”
Milan boss Gattuso did not help Valverde in his attempts to take the spotlight off Barca’s youngsters, the former Italy international hailing the technical quality of the Blaugrana’s academy products.
“Even though [Barca] have players that look like kids, they touch the ball with such beauty,” he said.
“It’s the actual beauty of football. It’s like poetry. It’s the kind of thing you can’t copy and paste. It’s something that takes years to do. It’s how they feel the game. I’m a bit jealous of Barca’s model.”
Barça falls to AC Milan by the minimum at Levi’s Stadium on a goal in second half injury time.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 5, 2018
The majority of Barca’s first-team regulars are yet to feature for the senior side in pre-season, and Valverde acknowledged the situation is less than ideal, with competitive action now fast approaching.
“Yes, of course it’s worrying, it’s a handicap we already knew about, we knew there was a World Cup and seeing the calendar it’s clear that we’re facing the Super Cup with people who have not played any games yet,” he said.
“We have found that [Clement] Lenglet, Arthur and Malcom have a level to help [us], the ones from the [reserve team] have also responded well, [we] see Rafinha recovered, see Munir [El Haddadi] how he has [improved] … we take things with him positively.”
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