BARCELONA — Ernesto Valverde expressed his desire for Rafinha to stay at Barcelona but stopped short of ruling out a move to Real Betis, who have confirmed their interest in the midfielder.
Rafinha, 25, impressed during preseason after returning from a loan spell with Inter Milan and started the Spanish Super Cup win over Sevilla earlier this month.
However, he was an unused substitute against Alaves last weekend and is the subject of interest from La Liga side Betis.
But Valverde’s made it clear throughout the summer that he would like the Brazil international to stick around at Camp Nou after being impressed with his performances on the club’s tour of the United States.
Due to injuries and a six-month stint in Italy last season, the coach had never previously been able to work with the player for a sustained period of time.
“We’ve been speaking about what a good preseason he’s had for a while,” Valverde said in a news conference on Friday.
“We all think that he can help this season, not just me, the whole club. But the transfer window is still open and, as I have always said, we have to see what happens in the final week [of the window].
“But Rafinha is a player that has impressed in preseason and he can help us this season [if he stays].”
Betis coach Quique Setien believes the signing of Rafinha would significantly improve his squad but there is not yet an agreement between the two clubs.
Mundo Deportivo report Barca are hopeful that any potential agreement will be for a permanent transfer, while Betis are pushing for a loan deal.
“Rafinha understands perfectly what we can offer him and he can add a lot of things to our side,” Setien said in a news conference.
“He’s a top-level player and I am sure that he would be really good for us. We have a lot of good players in our squad, but it’s clear that if Rafinha comes, the level would go up.”
Rafinha may have the final say on any deal. And speaking in the U.S. in July, he revealed that any decision regarding his future will be primarily based on playing time.
“All players want to play football,” he said. “They want to be where they can play the most minutes. It’s the same for me — whether that’s here [with Barcelona] or somewhere else.”