Zinedine Zidane has said Neymar is “irreplaceable” for Barcelona but warned his world-record departure will not make life any easier for Real Madrid.
Neymar’s €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain went through earlier this month, and he was unveiled at the Parc des Princes before the Ligue 1 win over Amiens last Saturday.
But speaking ahead of Madrid’s Super Cup first leg at the Camp Nou on Sunday, Zidane said the move would not change the way Barcelona play and warned that his side would still face a tough challenge.
“Barcelona is not weak — just the opposite,” he told a news conference. “They have had changes. But in the end, Barcelona is Barcelona. We know how they play, and this will not change.
“Neymar cannot be replaced — there is nobody like him. But whoever comes in will play very well too.
“If we think it will be easier [to face Barcelona without Neymar], we are mistaken. The Spanish Super Cup has a special value, and even more against Barcelona. It is a game against the best rival we have.”
Zidane said Cristiano Ronaldo was ready to start despite less than a week of preseason training, adding; “He is very good, he has had his holidays.
“He worked very hard physically during his holidays, and he is ready to play now. But we will see the team tomorrow.”
Reports in Spain on Saturday claimed Zidane had agreed a new three-year contract that would see his annual salary double to almost €8 million.
But he said: “I am not worried about this. With my history with this club, it is not about money or contract or anything like that.
“I know it will end at some point, but I am very happy at the moment. A contract could be 10 years, 20. But I know where I am and what I must do.
“Maybe in a year’s time, you could be gone. Madrid and I, we will never argue about this.”
Amid discussion over whether playmaker Isco can line up alongside Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane said all four could play together.
However, he did not confirm whether Isco would replace the suspended Luka Modric at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
“He can be compatible [with Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo], maybe,” he said. “You need a mix. It can be done. I can do many things. But we will see.”
According to ESPN, Zidane suggested he would prefer the Spanish Super Cup to be decided over a single game rather than two fixtures in the build up to next weekend’s La Liga kick-off.
“It is the way it is,” he said. “I would prefer it in one game, but we must play the two games.”