Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has praised Lionel Messi’s performance in the friendly win against Real Madrid, describing his display as ‘extraordinary’.
Messi opened the scoring against the Spanish and European champions. Barca were two goals up inside seven minutes thanks to Ivan Rakitic, before Mateo Kovacic and Marco Asensio forced parity heading into half-time.
Gerard Pique grabbed Barca’s clincher five minutes after the restart, however, leaving Real winless after three International Champions Cup games.
After full-time at the Hard Rock Stadium, Valverde, who succeeded Luis Enrique this summer, told fcbarcelona.es:
“My team started the game very well and I was happy with how they dominated proceedings.
“We had many chances to extend the scoreline further.
“It was an opportunity to see how great these players are, especially Messi who was extraordinary.”
The former Athletic Bilbao manager also revealed just how keen he is to keep hold of the in-demand Neymar.
The Brazilian striker has been linked with a potential 222 million euro switch to Paris St Germain, a deal which would see him become the most expensive player in the world.
Valverde expects the 25-year-old to stick around and contribute at the Nou Camp, however.
Quoted in Marca, he said: “I try to talk about what is happening right now. Neymar is here with us, we count on him and we think that he should help us out this year.”
Valaverde also felt the friendly triumph acted as a warm-up for the two-legged Supercopa showdown, which starts on August 13. “Those matches will be different – there is no such thing as a friendly against Real.
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, on the other hand, insisted he is “not bothered” by Saturday night’s friendly defeat to their arch-rivals.
Zidane can now turn his thoughts to the UEFA Super Cup meeting with Manchester United in Skopje.
“This is pre-season and I’m sure that the results we’ve achieved weren’t what we were expecting, but this doesn’t alter anything,” the Frenchman told realmadrid.com.
“The important thing is to be ready for August 8. I saw some good things out there, but also some things I didn’t like.
“We’ve got to be patient, work hard and be ready for the UEFA Super Cup.
“I’m not bothered by the defeat. It always hurts, we don’t like to lose but that’s not the most important thing. We need to improve and change a few things.”