Messi ruled out of La Liga Opener against Bilbao

Lionel Messi will not be risked for Barcelona’s opening La Liga game against Athletic Bilbao on Friday, according to his coach Ernesto Valverde.

The Barca skipper sustained a calf injury in training last week and missed Barca’s last two pre-season friendlies against Napoli.

They begin their title defence at San Mames today and Valverde has said Messi is yet to train ahead of the match.

“We are not going to take risks with any player, even less with Leo,” Valverde said in a press conference on Thursday.

“He hasn’t trained or played with the team. We will wait a while but his recovery process is going well.”

Valverde was also asked about a potential move for Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar as Barcelona and Real Madrid scrap to sign the Brazilian before the transfer window closes on September 2.

“I am not in the middle of these issues,” Valverde said. “I focus on the team and players I have, I can’t think about players in other teams.

“I have always kept a line of respect in that way because Neymar belongs to PSG. We will see what happens but I can’t tell you anything about it.”

Barcelona have already spent around 250 million euros this summer and it is believed any bid for Neymar would include players in the deal.

Nelson Semedo has been among those mentioned as possible makeweights, along with Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic.

“It all depends on performance,” Valverde said, when asked about Semedo’s future. “Until August 31 everything is open but we think and I hope that Nelson stays with us.”

Barcelona are attempting to win La Liga for the third time in a row after finishing 11 points clear of Atletico Madrid last season.

Even before the possible arrival of Neymar, they have been boosted by the signings of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico and Frenkie de Jong from Ajax.

“Tomorrow we start the league and our goal is to repeat our success,” Valverde said. “The most difficult thing is to keep winning.”


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