Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann should not be booed by Barcelona fans in Saturday’s crunch LaLiga clash, says Ernesto Valverde.
Griezmann was strongly linked with joining Barca last year but instead opted to stay at Atletico, discussing his future in a televised documentary produced by Gerard Pique’s company.
Although fresh speculation has suggested Griezmann is keen on a move to Camp Nou at the end of the season, the France international has said he is “fed up” with the rumours.
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo also told Spanish TV show El Rondo: “I can confirm 1,000 per cent that he will remain a player of Atletico Madrid next season.”
Griezmann could face a frosty reception when Atletico visit Barca this weekend, Diego Simeone’s side aiming to put pressure on Valverde’s league leaders.
But Valverde would prefer if fans did not make Griezmann the centre of attention for the game, which could see Barca move 11 points clear at the top of the table.
“I want the fans to pay attention to us, not opposition players, supporting us and not looking at them,” Valverde told a news conference. “I don’t like when we go to other grounds and get booed, it’s like fans give more importance to the opposition than their own side, we want the opposite.
“Every player is free to decide over their future, just like the clubs can decide who they keep. Everyone is free to take their decisions and it’s just another game for us. Griezmann is a great player so we’ll take care, but nothing more than that.
“I’m the coach of a team who tomorrow are playing another team in which there are other players and coaches. I don’t like to talk about players from other teams, just like I wouldn’t like it if the opposition coach talked about my team. It’s a question of respect.”
Alvaro Morata is a doubt for Saturday’s game due to an ankle injury, but Valverde confirmed Barcelona were interested in signing the Spain striker in the January transfer window.
Morata instead opted for a return to his boyhood club Atletico, where he has scored four LaLiga goals in eight appearances, while Barca moved for Kevin-Prince Boateng on loan from Serie A side Sassuolo.
“It’s like everything, he was talked about as a target here, like many others,” Valverde added. “But now he plays for Atletico.
“The role he was going to have here as a second striker isn’t the same as at Atletico, so every player has to think about what he wants. It’s speculation.
“Boateng has come in, he’s not playing too much, but we said this to him right from the start.”