Pasadena – Ernesto Valverde expects a bright future for summer signing Artur after the Brazilian midfielder netted a stunning goal on his Barcelona debut.
The La Liga champions have lost the services of experienced midfield duo Andres Iniesta and Paulinho since the end of last season, but splashed out €40 million to bring in Artur from Brazilian outfit Gremio.
The 21-year-old made an instant impression in Barcelona’s opening encounter in the International Champions Cup pre-season tournament on Saturday after firing home in a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur, before the Catalans triumphed 5-3 on penalties.
Barcelona boss Valverde has confirmed that he still wants to add to his options in the middle of the park, but was encouraged by the early signs from Artur during an impressive first half display in Pasadena, California.
Valverde said: “He is a player that can give us a lot. He can give us possession, goals and he was really motivated today. He had a great game during the minutes that he played.”
Like Valverde, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is eager for a transfer breakthrough, particularly as the Premier League outfit are yet to make a signing since last season’s third placed finish.
Spurs are already without their nine World Cup semi-final representatives for their trip to America and Pochettino’s options have been further depleted after injuries to Victor Wanyama, Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko. Wanyama’s knee problem is potentially serious after he has flown back to London to see a specialist.
But regardless of the casualties, Pochettino says it is crucial that Spurs add to their squad before the August 9 Premier League transfer deadline.
“We are going to see what happens in the next few days,” said Pochettino.
“But with or without injuries, I think that’s our target [to strengthen the team] to bring in some players and add some with quality who can help us to achieve our goals.”
Both sides were without many of their big names, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris all still recovering from their exertions at the World Cup.
But Barcelona’s weakened team dominated the opening half and went ahead through a devastatingly simple 15th minute opener. Andre Gomes delivered an inswinging cross from the left, Rafinha escaped at the far post and headed the ball back into the six-yard box, where Munir cushioned it into the net from point-blank range.
A second arrived courtesy of Arthur. Rafinha laid the ball back to the midfielder on the edge of the area and he effortlessly swept it into the far top corner beyond the helpless Gazzaniga.
Another new Brazilian signing, Malcom, was introduced by Valverde at half-time and he came close to marking his Barcelona debut with a goal after taking on right-back Serge Aurier and firing a low shot towards the near post which was smartly diverted behind by goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
But after Valverde introduced a raft of teenagers into the fray, Spurs began to pull themselves back into the game and pulled level with two goals in as many minutes.
First, the Barcelona defence failed to deal with Ben Davies’ left wing cross and after Christian Eriksen saw his shot blocked, Son Heung-min latched onto the rebound to divert a shot into the unguarded net.
The leveller then arrived when Barcelona struggled with another low cross, this time from the right. Eriksen’s shot was cleared off the line, but academy product Georges-Kevin N’koudou pounced with a volley from inside the six-yard box.
In the penalty shoot-out that followed, Anthony Georgious missed for Spurs, with Barcelona converting all five of their spot-kicks.