Luis Suarez '100pc' a Barcelona player
Published 16/07/2014 | 13:27
Luis Suarez was conspicuous by his absence on the day he officially became "100 per cent" a Barcelona player.
The Uruguayan striker arrived in the Catalan city on Tuesday to complete the formalities of his reported £75million transfer from Liverpool.
But, due to the fact he is serving a four-month FIFA ban from all football-related activity after biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder at the World Cup, he could not be formally unveiled at the Nou Camp on Wednesday morning.
It therefore fell to new Barca coach Luis Enrique and director of football Andoni Zubizarreta to answer questions about the club's latest big-money signing, while expanding further on their wider plans in the summer transfer window.
Suarez will be ineligible to play for Barca - or even to train with his team-mates - unless any appeal lodged with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is successful.
When asked if Barca were making moves to reduce the length of the ban, Zubizarreta told reporters: "Luis Suarez is a Barcelona player for all purposes but the recommendation from our lawyers has been to remain discreet.
"Our lawyers tell us that we should be very prudent with what we say and your question is asking about something that's could only happen after certain verdicts have been reached.
"Then we'll be able to explain things better.
"But it's fact, it's true. He's 100 per cent a member of the club.
"We're speaking to our lawyers to find out the best way of defending his rights but at the moment there's nothing I can say about that."
Whether or not Suarez is allowed to make his debut ahead of schedule, the fact he is now securely under contract at the Nou Camp gives Enrique one less headache.
The former Spain midfielder, who has coached Barca's B team and more recently Roma and Celta Vigo, has already started shaking up his squad as a result of both planned and unexpected changes to personnel.
Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez have been sold, goalkeepers Victor Valdes and Jose Manuel Pinto have been released, while Carles Puyol's decision to retire from football leaves Enrique light on options in defence
He has signed Croatian playmaker Ivan Rakitic, Suarez and keepers Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo but Barca remain frustrated in their search for a "high-profile" centre-back.
"We're working on that at the moment," Zubizarreta added. "We thought we were going to have four centre-backs because we thought Puyol would be with us but he's not and we have to cover that position.
"Obviously we're working on buying players and we're hoping to announce a centre-back soon.
"About 90 per cent of clubs in Europe have the same problem, it's a position everyone is working on.
"We're working in the market and we haven't come to a definitive decision on some players we were hoping to sign.
"The only high-profile centre-back that's been signed is David Luiz, who's moved to Paris St Germain.
"It's not easy to find centre-backs who are better than the ones we've got and if we could find them then we would sign them."
Enrique, who will soon welcome World Cup Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi back to training, is happy with the work the board has already done to bolster his options and understands the frustrations of the transfer market.
"We've been working hard and we've been in contact the whole time," he said of his relationship with the board.
"It's not just a question of going to the supermarket and taking players home, it's a complicated process.
"I know I've got a good group of players including one of the best players in the world.
"My objective is to get the best out of all the players in my squad. All managers want to have the best players that they possibly can.
"When I joined Barca I knew what players we had and we've been strengthening and I'm really happy.
"My target is to put a team together that is as competitive as possible."
Enrique, 44, is also working to persuade veteran midfielder Xavi to remain at the club amid reports he could be tempted to move to Major League Soccer or to the Middle East in pursuit of a new challenge.
"Yes I've spoken to Xavi and it's a matter that hasn't been decided yet," Enrique said. "He has a contract with the club and we're waiting to see what decision he comes to.
"He's a player for whom I have a lot of respect."