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Barcelona-linked Inter star a 'great player', says Valverde

Lautaro Martinez is reportedly wanted by the reigning La Liga champions.

Lautaro Martinez (file pic).
Lautaro Martinez (file pic).

BARCELONA HEAD COACH Ernesto Valverde said Lautaro Martinez is a “great player” as the Inter star continues to be linked with the La Liga champions.

Inter forward Martinez has reportedly emerged as a top target for Barca, who are looking to identify a long-term heir for the aging Luis Suarez.

Martinez has scored 13 goals across all competitions this season, including a goal away to Barca in the Champions League on 2 October.

The 22-year-old Argentina international will come up against Barca again when Inter welcome the Spanish giants to Milan on Tuesday, in a battle of first against second in Group F on the final matchday.

Asked about Martinez on the eve of the clash, Valverde — whose Barca have already qualified for the last 16 — told reporters: “He is a great player and he’s having a great season. He is quick and strong.

“He scored a great goal in the first game at the Camp Nou. I know he is comfortable with [Romelu] Lukaku, they’ve found the right mechanism to help Inter.

As for Lautaro being similar to Luis Suarez, they are a little different but both are born goalscorers.

“But Inter have so many good players, Lautaro, Lukaku, [Milan] Skriniar…”

With progression already sealed, Barcelona are expected to field a weakened side during the match, with Lionel Messi already being announced as an absentee.

Valverde made it clear the Argentinian superstar was just being rested with the team in the midst of a taxing schedule.

Messi is getting rest. Nothing more,” Valverde said. “We come from important games and we have important games and I have decided that some players do not come.

“Last year we played a great game here. Without Messi, by the way.”

Inter are currently top of Serie A — two points clear of Juventus — but face the possibility of elimination from the Champions League if they don’t win at the San Siro.

The Italians need to match Dortmund’s result against Slavia Prague at the minimum to progress — with both teams tied on points but the Nerazzurrii ahead by a tiebreaker.

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