Barcelona: 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 $94 million (£75m) 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 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 teammates — 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.”