Ernesto Valverde: Barcelona won't seek to sign more defenders
BARCELONA -- Ernesto Valverde is happy with his Barcelona squad and his options in defence despite losing Javier Mascherano to Chinese Super League side Hebei Fortune this week.
In preparation for Mascherano's departure, which has been a long time in the making, Barca signed Yerry Mina from Palmeiras for €11.8 million.
Mina, 23, joins a cast of centre-backs which includes Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen, but Valverde is wary about rushing the Colombian international into the team given the differences between La Liga and the Brasileirao.
And with Vermaelen currently sidelined for two weeks with a hamstring injury, Barca risk being left short in defence following confirmation of Mascherano's exit.
"Vermaelen is only out for a couple of weeks so it is not too worrying," Valverde said in a news conference when asked if the club would look to bring in more experience at the back before the end of January.
"I am happy with the defenders we have. And I am happy with Mina, who just needs a period to adapt to our way of playing. He has still not even played a friendly, let alone an official game.
"But at the moment we're not thinking about anything other than getting Vermaelen back and having four centre-backs available again."
There could be more outgoings, though, following on from Mascherano, Arda Turan and Rafinha.
"I am fine with the team we have," Valverde added when asked if Barca would be partaking in more January activity, be that ins or outs.
"The transfer window is still open and nothing is closed... I don't know what could happen between now and the end of the market, but in principle I am happy with what I have now."
Valverde is preparing his side for Thursday's Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg against Espanyol, with late decisions to be taken on the fitness of Philippe Coutinho, who could make his debut after being handed the No.14 shirt, Andres Iniesta and Paco Alcacer.
Barca go into the game 1-0 down from the first leg, but Valverde refused to make either side favourites heading into the second of three Catalan derbies in three weeks -- the third one in La Liga set for Feb. 4.
"We're at a disadvantage because we're behind [in the tie] but it is not the first time we've been behind," the coach said. "It's happened in league games this season, when you have less time to recover.
"But we also have an advantage because it is a two-legged tie and we're at home in the return game. These are the games that motivate you and the prize is a sweet one. We want to be in the semifinal."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.