Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen believes La Liga leaders Barcelona have been made even stronger despite losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.
Neymar left the Catalans in a world-record €222 million transfer to Ligue 1 giants PSG in the off-season transfer window, but Ter Stegen reckons it hasn’t hindered Barca at all.
“The quality of Ney, you can’t explain it…” the German told ESPN FC. “Because he was super important for us, as a person [and] in the team, as a footballer.
“Now, everyone needs to understand what he did because maybe he wants to win something else, also personally. His decision only he knows, but in the end, we had to compensate all this and this is not easy because he had so much quality, but we did it in a different way and now we have a very, very strong team.
“I think we’ve got some new players who have made us even stronger and hopefully they feel good and comfortable in the team and they adapt very fast. But at the same time, we want to give them the time, Dembele didn’t play very often because he was injured [and] Coutinho just came. We always need to give them time and be patient because they are young and they have some great years ahead.”
Ter Stegen claimed that new manager Ernesto Valverde played a vital role in steadying the ship, bringing a valuable outsiders’ perspective into the club after taking charge.
“He was at Bilbao before and he knew exactly where we were struggling sometimes… and we were always struggling against Bilbao! It was very interesting to see how he was seeing us and maybe at the beginning this was a bit difficult but then step-by-step we have seen what he wants us to do and now we are doing what he wants us to do,” said the 25-year-old.
Barcelona will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie as they look to claim revenge for their heartbreaking 2012 semi-final exit.