Barnes now a ‘top player’ - Bruno

Ashley Barnes, then with Brighton, is sent off at Sheffield Wednesday in 2013
Ashley Barnes, then with Brighton, is sent off at Sheffield Wednesday in 2013
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In-form Ashley Barnes comes up against his former club Brighton on Saturday with old teammate Bruno hailing him “a top player”.

Burnley signed Barnes for £400,000 in January 2014, Sean Dyche’s first cash signing for the club.

And he has emerged as one of his most astute purchases, hitting 24 goals in 134 appearances for the club.

The 28-year-old netted his 20th Premier League goal to earn a point at Stoke on Sunday, his sixth in eight games, and the Spanish right back, who played alongside him at the Amex Stadium for 18 months after arriving from Valencia, admitted: “I loved him to be honest since the first day.

“He was under-rated here. He was a really good player.

“He can play up front in any position and he has been progressing.

“I love the way he plays and his passion.

“I love how strong he is, the quality he has and how he keeps the ball.

“He is a grown man now. I think he is more mature and he is a top player.”

Barnes has matured at Burnley, from the player who suffered a seven-match ban for trying to trip referee Nigel Miller at Bolton in 2012, and Bruno added: “Of course he showed that side sometimes - as you say against Bolton.

“But, in terms of play and in terms of training, you could rely on him.

“He was always ready for a battle and that is what you want from your players.”

Bruno expects a tough challenge at Turf Moor against a Burnley side on the brink of Europa League qualification, and he sees Brighton’s old Championship promotion rivals as a great example to follow: “What we need now is to keep performing well.

“Tottenham was a really good performance and we need to keep building up from there.

“We had quite a long week to prepare as we had to get another three points to make sure we stay up.

“We don’t think further than Burnley.

“We need to be not obsessed but just thinking about Burnley and how they play.

“I think it is a really good team to look at.

“They have been working so hard and look at where they are. that is what we need to achieve.”