BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde says La Liga’s plan to take one fixture per season to the United States or Canada strikes him as “strange.”
La Liga announced on Thursday that an agreement with Relevant, the organisers of the International Champions Cup, would see one game played in North America each year to promote the game in the continent.
However, the plans have been met with a mixed response, with the Spanish Footballers’ Association (AFE) among those complaining that the deal was struck without the necessary consultation.
“Initially, it seems a bit strange to play a league game abroad,” Valverde told a news conference on Friday. “But that was also the case with the Spanish Super Cup, which we played [against Sevilla] in Morocco last weekend, so I don’t know. I suppose that if it was reversed, and the Moroccan Super Cup was played here, it would seem strange, too.
“The world of football keeps on changing, but we will have to see if [playing a game in North America] ends up being anything more than an intention. Going through with something is very different from [announcing] an intention.”
There’s also confusion as to how legally binding La Liga’s agreement is to play a game outside of Spain for the first time.
FIFA regulations say any decision would have to be approved by the country’s national association, which means the Royal Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] and not La Liga.
Meanwhile, La Liga returns this weekend, with league champions Barca kicking off the defence of their crown at home to Alaves, who were the last side to beat them at Camp Nou, back in October of 2016.
There’s a clamour in Catalonia for Barca to focus on the Champions League this season following three consecutive quarterfinal exits, but Valverde says European success will come hand-in-hand with domestic success.
“No, we prioritise everything,” the coach said when asked, if he was in line with Lionel Messi’s comments on Wednesday that becoming European champions is the main aim.
“Of course, we will fight to win the Champions League, as we always do. That will always be the case at Barcelona. It’s a competition which excites us.
“But we also know that to win the Champions League the way to go is to win La Liga. If you focus on La Liga, you are focused on being the best over the course of a year, and if that’s the case, you will be closer to winning the Champions League.”
Barca have made four signings for the new campaign — Arthur Melo, Clement Lenglet, Malcom and Arturo Vidal — and while Valverde says he’s more than happy with his squad he refused to rule out more incomings amid reports of interest in Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
“I am very happy with what I have,” he said. “We have a good squad to take on what’s coming but there’s still time [in the transfer window]. I have extraordinary players but I don’t know if the squad is final until Aug. 31.”
Asked directly about Pogba, he added: “I don’t get involved in talking about other team’s players. He is a player that doesn’t belong to us and I focus on my own players.”