Barcelona: Barcelona coach Luis Enrique insisted midfielder Andre Gomes will become a pillar of the Catalans’ midfield after silencing his critics with his first goal for the club in the 4-2 win over Valencia on Sunday.
Enrique has attracted criticism himself for keeping faith with Gomes despite his underwhelming performances since moving for a fee that could rise to 55 million euros (Dh217.3 million) from Valencia in July.
“Andre Gomes will be a very valuable player for Barca in the future, you will see,” said Enrique, who is stepping down as coach at the end of the season.
“He combines unique physical and technical abilities for a player of his profile and the fans treated him well.”
The Portuguese has been roundly jeered by the Barca fans in recent weeks, but the majority of the Camp Nou backed his introduction for Rafinha 16 minutes from time despite some whistles.
And Barca defender Gerard Pique told those fans not backing their players to stay at home.
“The whistling of Andre Gomes is intolerable,” said the Spanish international.
“Those who come to whistle should stay at home.”
Pique’s stance was seconded by Enrique, who claimed only the confidence of having the fans backing will allow Gomes to show his true potential.
“There is nothing more necessary for a player than to have the support of his fans,” added Enrique.
“Having that will mean we will see the best of him in the future.”
Barcelona closed to within two points of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with the win and captain Andres Iniesta told reporters the side will capitalise on any slip from Zinedine Zidane’s men.
“The title race is still alive and we’re obliged to stay up there and take advantage of any opportunity we get if Real Madrid slip up.” Iniesta said.
Barca star Neymar, meanwhile, has explained why he took the late penalty against Paris Saint-Germain that helped the Catalan club pull off the biggest comeback in Champions League history on March 8.
Lionel Messi had already scored from the spot when, 4-1 up, Barca were awarded a penalty after a disputed foul on Luis Suarez.
Neymar, who had just netted a free-kick, said he had wanted Messi to take the responsibility of the kick.
“I grabbed the ball for Messi (to take the penalty) and he said, ‘No, you take it’,” Neymar said.
“We have a good relationship. There is no jealously, or desire to always score the winning goal.”
Neymar added that he was wary of adulation following his influential performance against PSG, which included two goals and the assist for Sergi Roberto’s astonishing winner in the final minutes.
“Whatever I do is not enough for a lot of people so I don’t get too excited,” Neymar said.
“Football is a box of surprises and things can change quickly.”