Ernesto Valverde said Andres Iniesta’s substitution in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey triumph over Sevilla was not a farewell as he paid tribute to the Chinese Super League target.
Iconic Spanish midfielder Iniesta said he will decide on his future “this week” amid links with the CSL after scoring in Barca’s 5-0 rout of Sevilla in Madrid Saturday.
Chongqing Lifan – led by former Portugal and Sporting CP head coach Paulo Bento – have reportedly reached an agreement to lure the 33-year-old to China.
Barca boss Valverde, however, was tight-lipped on Iniesta’s future at the LaLiga giants as he insisted there was nothing behind the veteran’s withdrawal two minutes from the end of the match.
“He was playing a great game. I wanted people who enjoyed him playing extraordinarily during all the game to give him that homage, but the change didn’t mean anything else,” Valverde told reporters of Iniesta, who was given a standing ovation at Wanda Metropolitano.
“About him, it is a pleasure to see him playing, to see him playing like he did today. I said the same about Messi in the past: They make it look a lot easier, what they do.
“I would have given my arm to be able to do what Iniesta does when I was a player. We are very lucky to have him with us, and everyone else is very lucky to be able to enjoy his game.”
Pressed on Iniesta’s future plans, Valverde said: “Nothing to say. It’s a tricky question, it looks like you want me to tell you what he could have told us. I don’t have anything to say.
“He is the only one who can make a choice and communicate it, if he does it. We are still with him and we are pleased with him.”