Messi Argentina recall not a blow to Barcelona, insists Valverde
Lionel Messi returned to Argentina's squad on Thursday, though Ernesto Valverde refused to call it a setback to Barcelona.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde does not see Lionel Messi's recall to the Argentina national team as a setback to the LaLiga giants.
Messi was banned and fined $50,000 by CONMEBOL in August for accusing the governing body of corruption in the wake of Argentina's Copa America semi-final defeat to hosts Brazil.
The Barça talisman has missed Argentina's past four matches – all friendlies – as a result, but he was named in their latest squad on Thursday for upcoming matches against Brazil and Uruguay.
Those games will be played this month in Saudi Arabia and Israel, respectively.
Messi has suffered with injury problems this term, leading to some suggesting his return to the Argentina set-up could be a negative development for Barcelona.
"Normal for Messi to be back for Argentina" after ban, says Valverde
Although Valverde's tone seemed to a suggest a hint of frustration, he refused to outright call Messi's call-up a problem.
Nos vamos de esta Copa con un triunfo pero sobre todo con la cabeza alta y con la sensación de que esta vez el futbol no fue justo con nosotros. Por como jugamos y porque fuimos superiores a Brasil, mereciamos estar en la final de manana. Pero hay que mirar hacia adelante con optimismo porque hay futuro y una base muy grande en esta Seleccion y solo hay que darle algo de tiempo. #VamosArgentina
"Look, we know that if Messi is active, there's a good chance he gets called up to the national team," Valverde told reporters on Friday.
"He hasn't been [in the Argentina squad] because of suspension, but now that's over it's normal for him to be back for Argentina.
"It's something we accept, he accepts. I don't think it's a setback as such."
Injury-plagued Umtiti could be fit to play against Levante
Defender Samuel Umtiti has endured a wretched time with injuries over the past 18 months, playing just 15 LaLiga matches since the start of last season.
His solitary outing this term against Eibar last month was followed by another knee injury, though Valverde hinted he could potentially feature at Levante on Saturday.
"Let's see how he does in training today [Friday]," Valverde said. "He's had fitness issues hanging over from last year, that's why he's not playing regularly.
"Hopefully we can get this sorted once and for all so he can play more regularly, but the other thing is competition for places. Lenglet is playing very well.
"He [Lenglet] is an absolutely reliable player, very professional in what he does. He's really settling into his position.
"Shortly after arriving last season, he covered extremely well for Samuel and the French team is also aware of how well he is playing."
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