BARCELONA (AFP) - Barcelona coach Luis Enrique insisted midfielder Andre Gomes will become a pillar of the Catalans' midfield after silencing his critics with his first goal for the club in a 4-2 win over Valencia on Sunday (March 19).
Enrique has attracted criticism himself for keeping faith with Gomes despite his underwhelming performances since moving for a fee that could rise to €55 million (S$82 million) from Valencia in July.
"Andre Gomes will be a very valuable player for Barca in the future, you will see," said Enrique, who is stepping down as coach at the end of the season.
"He combines unique physical and technical abilities for a player of his profile, and the fans treated him well."
The Portuguese midfielder has been roundly jeered by Barca fans in recent weeks, but the majority of Camp Nou backed his introduction for Rafinha 16 minutes from time despite some whistles.
And Barca defender Gerard Pique told those fans not backing their players to stay at home. "The whistling of Andre Gomes is intolerable," said the Spanish international. "Those who come to whistle should stay at home."
Pique's stance was seconded by Enrique, who claimed that only the confidence of having the fans backing will allow Gomes to show his true potential.
"There is nothing more necessary for a player than to have the support of his fans," added Enrique. "Having that will mean we will see the best of him in the future."