Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has praised Real Sociedad midfielder Martin Zubimendi, who has been continually linked with a move to the Catalan giants in the summer transfer window.
Xavi will come up against Zubimendi and La Real in La Liga on Saturday, May 20 at the Camp Nou and was asked about the midfielder at his pre-match press conference, as reported by Diario Sport.
“Zubimendi is an extraordinary pivot. He dominates the game, the moments with and without the ball,” he told reporters. “He wins duels, he is an extraordinary player in that position. He understands the model we like at Barça,”
Barcelona are in the market for a new pivot in the summer after captain Sergio Busquets confirmed he would leave the club at the end of the season when his contract expires.
Xavi admitted that bringing in a new midfielder to replace Busquets is now a priority for his club ahead of the 2023-24 La Liga campaign.
“Until now we didn’t know if Busquets was going to continue,” he added. “The priority for next season is the signing of a defensive midfielder.”
Xavi’s admiration for Zubimendi is clear, but the midfielder has a release clause in his contract set at 60 million euros which is problematic for Barcelona due to the club’s ongoing financial difficulties.
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Martin Zubimendi Responds To Transfer Talk
Zubimendi has also spoken about the speculation concerning his future and made it clear he’s not thinking about a move to Barcelona currently in an interview with Radio Marca Donostia, as reported by Football Espana.
“I have never said anything about wanting to leave La Real, I do nothing but see news of that and it makes me feel uneasy,” he said. “I have neither listened nor wanted to do anything. I do not know if I have been able to leave, but I have not even considered it. I have already said it several times, to say it more times it seems that they do not listen to me.”
Zubimendi demonstrated his commitment to La Real by signing a contract extension at the club in 2022. The midfielder’s current deal now runs until 2027 which is a further blow to Barca’s hopes of landing the 24-year-old.
Who Will Replace Sergio Busquets?
It remains to be seen who will replace Busquets at Barcelona. Xavi has options in his current squad, namely Frenkie de Jong, but has tried out center-back Eric Garcia as a pivot this season.
Nico Gonzalez, who has been on loan at Valencia this season, is also due back at the end of the season. The youngster has come through the club’s La Masia academy and has long been tipped to take over from Busquets at Barca.
Barcelona could still dip into the transfer market, if finances allow, with Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves a target, according to journalist Veronica Brunati.
The Portugal international has admitted he would like to play for Barcelona, as reported by Sport Witness, but Xavi is thought to have doubts over his signing. According to ESPN, Barca are continuing to work on a deal for Neves even though Xavi “prefers other targets.”
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