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Ernesto Valverde talks Ivan Rakitic, Lionel Messi and women in football

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The latest from the Barcelona boss

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Copa del Rey Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde has been back in the press conference hotseat and talking about all things Barcelona ahead of Saturday’s clash against Rayo Vallecano.

The Barcelona boss talked about Ivan Rakitic’s future, Lionel Messi’s return to international duty as well as Real Madrid and Saturday’s opponents.

Here are the best bits:

Valverde on Ivan Rakitic

I’m not thinking about whether Rakitic is here or not next season. Not him, or anybody else.

Valverde on Umtiti

He is coming back little by little and trying to recover his best level. But when it’s been a while, you always need some time.

Valverde on the Champions League

When we see there are teams that go out of the Champions League after having good leads, and teams that are strong and powerful, it tells us how difficult it is to go through. Nobody is safe.

Valverde on Real Madrid

I do not rule out any team, none of us do. Atletico is now the closest rival and our objective is to keep this distance at least. I do not rule out Real Madrid either out of respect and because of the maths. We see the Real Madrid situation from a distance and with respect, because we know that football is what it is, a lot can change in a week.

Valverde on Lionel Messi returning to the Argentina squad

We all knew Leo would return to the national team sooner or later,. It doesn’t worry me, not at all. This season has not been as demanding for him so far compared with others, due to the injury and not playing for the national team since the summer. For us, it’s completely normal that he is back in Argentina’s squad.

Valverde on Rayo Vallecano

Rayo’s situation is difficult and we need to remember that the teams at the bottom can surprise you at this stage of the season.

These three points are worth the same as those earned at the Bernabeu or the Sanchez Pizjuan.A win would help us going into the Champions League match.

It’s possible that there may be a rotation or two, we’ll see on Saturday. We’ve just had a quiet week and have four days after this match. When there are only three rest days, it’s more complicated.

Valverde on women in football

The football world is taking big steps forward. Women are going to keep having more and more of a presence in the game.

Women’s football is making tremendous progress and is there to be seen. In men’s football too there is more of a female presence and this will keep advancing further. In time, maybe there will be a female coach of Barca’s men’s team. I don’t know but it’s possible.