Barcelona duo Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele have been slammed by Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of club sponsor Rakuten, after a video emerged of two players allegedly making disparaging remarks about staff at a hotel in Japan.
The two players issued statements on social media on Monday with regards the video and apologized for causing any offence. However, Mikitani has now issued a response of his own on Twitter and made it clear he plans to speak to Barcelona about the duo’s behaviour.
“As a club sponsor and tour organizer, I am very sorry that the FCB players made discriminatory remarks,” he said. “Since Rakuten has endorsed Barça’s philosophy and sponsored the club, such statements are unacceptable under any circumstances and will formally protest the club and seek their views.”
Rakuten has worked with Barcelona since 2016 when the club agreed a deal worth an annual $58m, making it “one of the biggest football shirt sponsorships yet seen,” as reported by BBC Sport.
The deal with Rakuten was extended for another year in November 2020 which means the Japanese firm’s name will continue to appear on the Catalan giants’ shirts for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
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Barcelona To Sell Griezmann?
Mikitani’s comments come at a time when Griezmann’s future at the club looks uncertain once again. The club is considering selling the France international to help finance Lionel Messi’s contract extension, according to Sergi Capdevila at Diario Sport.
Barca needs to balance the books to comply with financial fair play restrictions and La Liga’s salary cap which means a big-name may have to be sacrificed this summer to make the numbers work.
Konrad de la Fuente, Jean-Clair Todibo, Junior Firpo, and Francisco Trincao have already departed, but the clubs needs more players to go. Capdevila even commented that “Griezmann could be key to retaining” Messi.
Griezmann is currently on holiday after playing for France at Euro 2020 and his future will not be resolved until he returns. Journalist Matteo Moretto reports Barca is waiting for the “right offer” for Griezmann amid interest from Premier League clubs.
The France international is also said to still have a “lot of affection” for Madrid which suggests he could be tempted to head back to former club Atletico if there is any interest from the Rojiblancos.
Injured Dembele Set to Stay?
Dembele, meanwhile, could end up staying at Barcelona with a move now unlikely after the forward was ruled out of action for four months. The 24-year-old suffered an injury at Euro 2020 that subsequently required surgery and means he faces another long lay-off.
Premier League side Manchester United was one of several clubs reportedly interested in Dembele but opted to withdraw their offer after the Frenchman’s latest setback, as reported by Diario Sport.
Barca must still make a decision on Dembele this summer. The forward is out of contract in 2022, and the Catalans want him to sign a new contract to avoid the possibility of losing him for free next summer.