Iniesta cannot be replaced at Barcelona - Valverde

Ernesto Valverde concedes Andres Iniesta can never truly be replaced at Barcelona as LaLiga's champions-elect prepare for life without their mercurial playmaker.

Iniesta tearfully addressed a news conference on Friday to confirm he will break a career-long association with Barca at the end of this season, when a move to Chinse Super League team Chongqing Lifan is expected to be officially announced.

Barcelona only need a point to be crowned LaLiga kings at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, while they could be champions before a ball is kicked if Atletico Madrid cannot beat Deportivo Alaves earlier in the day.

Attention will then turn towards how the Blaugrana adapt to playing without one of their greatest ever players - an architect of a golden era.

Barca have twice broken their transfer record under Valverde to bring in Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho but the head coach believes trying to find the next Iniesta would be a foolhardy endeavour.

"We had spoken before but those things are private issues between the player and the coach," he told a pre-match media briefing when asked about discussions regarding Iniesta's future.

"Let's not kid ourselves, Ineista is a player that can't be replaced. He is a player with characteristics that mean you can't really think about anybody else doing something similar. That's the fact.

"When you've got a player of that level who leaves a team you have to find other balances in the team, different ways.

"We know Barca has a very set style of football, it is very clear how we play. But what Iniesta gives you, you're not going to get from any other player."

Iniesta has started 21 matches in LaLiga this season, set against 13 last time around under Luis Enrique, but Valverde rejected the suggestion he tailored line-ups in an attempt to persuade the 33-year-old to stick around.

"If I've played him it's not because I'm trying to convince him of anything," he said. "It's because he's the right player to pick.

"I play a player because I think he's the best player for Barca. I do that for every player."

Former Barca boss Pep Guardiola paid a warm tribute to Iniesta on Friday, claiming he learned by watching the midfielder at work, and Valverde shared similar sentiments.

"Coaches learn from the players," he added. "We have a certain idea of things. We have ideas of tactics but it's the players who contribute everything in every sense.

"Great players like Andres teach you that there are other things, which they seem to understand very naturally. It makes you think of other ways. You learn every day.

"The way he's already made a decision before the ball's got to him, before it's got to the player who's going to pass to him... it's a really in-depth understanding of how football works."

 

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