Barcelona-linked Lautaro a 'great player', says Valverde ahead of Inter clash

The Barca coach was asked about the Argentine forward, who is on the Catalan club's radar as they look for a permanent successor to Luis Suarez

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has hailed Lautaro Martinez as a "great player" as the Inter star continues to be linked with the Liga champions.

As reported by Goal, Inter forward Lautaro, as well as Red Bull Salzburg striker Erling Haaland, has emerged as a top target for Barca, who are looking to identify a long-term heir for the aging Luis Suarez.

Lautaro has scored 13 goals across all competitions this season, including one away at Barca in the Champions League on October 2.

The 22-year-old Argentina international will come up against Barca again when Inter welcome the Spanish giants to Milan on Tuesday, in a battle of first against second in Group F on the final matchday.

Asked about Lautaro on the eve of the clash, Valverde – whose side have already qualified for the last 16 – told reporters: "He is a great player and he's having a great season. He is quick and strong.

"He scored a great goal in the first game at the Camp Nou. I know he is comfortable with [Romelu] Lukaku, they’ve found the right mechanism to help Inter.

"As for Lautaro being similar to Luis Suarez, they are a little different but both are born goalscorers.

"But Inter have so many good players, Lautaro, Lukaku, [Milan] Skriniar…"

With progression to the last 16 already secured, Barcelona are expected to field a weakened side during the match, with Lionel Messi already being announced as an absentee.

Valverde made it clear the Argentine superstar was just being rested with the team in the midst of a taxing schedule.

"Messi is getting rest. Nothing more," Valverde said. "We come from important games and we have important games [coming up] and I have decided that some players do not come.

"Last year we played a great game here - without Messi, by the way."

Inter are currently top of Serie A - two points clear of Juventus - but face the possibility of elimination from the Champions League if they don't win at San Siro.

The Italians need to match Dortmund's result against Slavia Prague as a minimum requirement to progress - with both teams tied on the same amount of points but the Nerazzurrii ahead based on the tiebreaker ruling.