Paco Alcacer
Paco Alcacer has made only three starting appearances for Barcelona this season Getty

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has refused to rule out a January exit for Paco Alcacer after omitting the Spanish striker from his squad for the Champions League trip to Sporting Clube de Portugal on Wednesday night (27 September).

Alcacer moved to the Nou Camp during the summer of 2016 in a deal worth around €30m (£26m, $35m) in order to serve as a back-up for the "MSN" trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

The 24-year-old forward failed to justify that price tag during his debut season at Barcelona, scoring only eight goals in 28 appearances under Luis Enrique.

The former Spanish international was still expected to be handed a fresh chance to prove himself in 2017-18, but instead has seen his first-team opportunities further restricted by Valverde.

Reports in Spain over recent days have claimed that the former Valencia star is even considering moving somewhere else during the coming January transfer window after failing to play a single minute since the 2-0 victory over Alaves on 26 August.

Alcacer has been left out of Valverde's squad for the Champions League encounter with Sporting and his situation is unlikely to improve in the second half of the season with club-record signing Ousmane Dembele expected to return from a long-term injury.

Valverde failed to cool that speculation during a press conference held ahead of the clash against the Portuguese side.

Asked whether he understands that Alcacer is considering leaving the club ahead of the January window, Valverde said: "Paco Alcacer was in the squad last week for the Girona game... what can I say? I don't know what will happen in the future.

"We have 24 players in the squad and every week you are going to ask about the ones who are not in because I cannot include all my players in the squad. Uefa's rules don't allow that. What can I do."

Barcelona visit the Estadio Jose Alvalade following an impressive start to the season in which they have won their last seven games and beat Juventus 3-0 in their first Champions League group stage fixture. Valverde hopes his side can extend that good run in Portugual, but is expecting a tough challenge.

"This competition, the Champions League, is very demanding because it is played at another pace. We are up against a top side and we are aware of that," he added. "They are a strong team who had a great season last year. They are good in midfield and they work well on the counter as one of their strong points is their pace out wide."