Suárez uncertainty gives Trincão space to shine at Barcelona

MADRID (AP) — With the future of Luis Suárez uncertain, young forward Francisco Trincão has an early chance to shine with Barcelona.

The 20-year-old Trincão just joined the team but could get some extra playing time as the club ponders what to do with Suárez, who was told by new coach Ronald Koeman that he is not in the Dutchman’s plans this season.

Trincão took advantage of his first chance on the field with Barcelona by impressing fans and Koeman in a 3-1 win over Nastic in a friendly on Saturday.

“I liked how he positioned himself, sometimes coming in from the inside and sometimes from the outside,” Koeman said. “He has quality and will start adapting to the speed and rhythm of the ball. He was a great signing.”

Barcelona paid Portuguese club Braga more than 30 million euros ($35 million) in the beginning of the year to acquire Trincão on a five-year contract. He finished the season with Braga and joined Barcelona last month.

Trincão was put in a tough spot right away as he was officially introduced by the Spanish club a day after Lionel Messi announced he wanted to leave. But he showed that he has some off-the-field foot skills, too, in sidestepping questions about Messi and not making headlines.

Barcelona brought in Trincão touting him as a “talented and quick” player with tremendous potential. He has been with Portugal’s youth teams and helped the under-19 squad win the European Championship in 2018 as its top scorer.

He showed some of that talent and quickness after entering the friendly against Nastic by displaying good ball control under pressure and beating defenders. He was named by Spanish media as one of the best players in the match.

Trincão can also play on the flanks, especially through the right side, but he might face greater competition there than in the middle of the attack as Barcelona also counts on more experienced youngsters such as Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele. Martin Braithwaite, who arrived last season, is also an option for Koeman in the attack. The club is also reportedly looking at other options, with Memphis Depay and Lautaro Martínez among those rumored to join the club.

“I can play in all positions in the attack,” Trincão said. “I’m here to help any way I can.”

Trincão is expected to have his second opportunity when Barcelona takes on Girona in another friendly on Wednesday. The club’s final preparation match ahead of its Spanish league debut will be against Elche on Saturday.

Barcelona’s first league game, against Villarreal at home, is scheduled for the final weekend of the month. Its matches in the first and second rounds were postponed because of the team’s participation in the Champions League in August.

It was Barcelona’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League that led to the arrival of Koeman and the revamping of the squad.

Messi eventually decided to stay, but Suárez was among the players who were told that they were not in the new coach’s plans. Suárez remains with the club and has been practicing normally, but he was not included in Koeman’s squad for last Saturday’s friendly. He has been linked to transfers to clubs such as Inter Milan, Juventus and Atlético Madrid.

But with lingering uncertainty over the Uruguay striker’s future, Trincão will continue to have chances to impress Koeman and gain a spot on the team.

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