Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has described the club's current squad as the best he has ever managed, even though his hunt continues for a new striker. The Nou Camp boss also ruled out the signing of an additional defender, despite many in Spain urging him to buy a right-back specialist to replace the now departed Dani Alves.
The reigning La Liga and Copa del Rey champions have already made four big-name signings this summer, in the shape of Denis Suárez, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne and André Gomes. However, they are yet to recruit a new number 9 despite Luis Enrique repeatedly admitting that one of his main priorities for the mercato was the signing of a forward who can serve as back-up for the MSN trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Reports from some publications in recent days had suggested the club were ready to give up in their quest, after knockbacks in moves for the likes of new Manchester City recruit Gabriel Jesus, Luciano Vietto, Nolito, Hatem Ben Arfa and Ousmane Dembele. However, club employees have been spotted in South America presumably searching for a new target, amid stories linking them with Gremio striker Luan and West Ham United target Jonathan Calleri.
Luis Enrique has now said he is confident that a signing will be made before the end of the window, but insists the club will not be signing anyone for the sake of it.
"Yes, [I still hope we will sign a striker]. We have to be open to improving the squad, which is never closed. If we find [a striker] we like we will bring him in. If not, we will continue with what we have.
"On paper, this is the best squad that I have had in my three years at Barça. If we find a player that will improve us, we will do it. If not, we continue with this squad, which is already great."
Elsewhere, Thomas Vermalen became the latest player to leave Catalonia this summer after agreeing a loan move to AS Roma. However, asked if the club would be signing a new centre-back to fill the gap left by the former Arsenal defender, Luis Enrique replied: "It is not a priority."
The Barcelona chief gave a similar response when asked about the recruitment of a new right-back following the departure of Dani Alves to Juventus, which leaves only the much-criticised Aleix Vidal and the versatile Sergi Roberto as the only first-team options in that position.
"We've played only a few pre-season games," Luis Enrique said. "The position is well covered by two good young players who have to prove their quality with more games. The team is not closed. Depending on the performance of the team we will see what needs to be strengthened."
Martin Montoya, Alex Song, Sandro Ramirez, Marc Bartra, Adriano and Alen Halilovic have all left the Nou Camp this summer, and Luis Enrique hints that more players will follow in their footsteps before 31 August. Academy starlet Sergi Samper in particular has been linked with a loan move elsewhere to give him more game time.
"There is still time until the end of the transfer window. There may be exits and signings as we are open to cover any eventuality. Samper could stay or go out on loan, but he is not the only one."