Barcelona coach Xavi spoke at length about French forward Ousmane Dembele ahead of his team’s Copa del Rey last 16 clash against Athletic Club at San Mames on Thursday, January 20.
The 41-year-old made it clear at a pre-match press conference that Barcelona have already decided that either Dembele renews his contract at the Camp Nou or the club will look to offload him in the January transfer window
“The situation is complex, it’s difficult. The club has made the decision that if he does not renew we need to find a solution for him and for us. We have waited a long time. It’s not an easy decision. We’ve been at this for five months now, we’ve been having conversations and his agent and we can’t wait any longer,” he said. “Either he renews or we look for a solution. It’s a complicated situation, the player knows it, it’s not easy for anyone, for me, the player, the club but we need to stop this and find a solution. We want the best for the player and for us. The most important thing are the interests of the club.”
Xavi’s comments suggest Barca are determined to avoid Dembele leaving as a free agent in the summer when his contract expires. The attacker joined Barca in summer 2017 from Borussia Dortmund for a fee of €105 million, plus a potential €42m in add-ons.
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Xavi Won’t Put Dembele in the Stands
Xavi also denied reports he would put Dembele in the stands for the rest of the season if he does not renew his contract this winter. The coach made it clear that option is out of the question.
“No, that’s not an option. The options are either he renews or we find a solution. There’s no other way out. It’s a complicated situation, we’ve been very clear with Ousmane. And you get to the point where you can’t understand the situation,” he added. “He says he wants to renew but there’s no resolution. So either he renews or we look for a solution in terms of him leaving the club. He knows the project. He’s played every single minute he’s been able to since I’ve been coach. But him sitting in the stands for the rest of the season is not an option.”
Dembele’s agent, Moussa Sissoko, has hit out at Barcelona this week and claimed the Catalans are unwilling to negotiate further. Xavi was also asked why Dembele has not renewed yet and said the question needs to be put to the player.
“He says he wants to renew. He says he wants to continue. It’s a question for him. Tomorrow we have a very important game for our future in the season and I understand the interest,” he explained. “I’ve been clear and I can’t be more clear. Either he renews or we look for a way out. There are no other options. We need to make a decision and that’s what we’ve decided.”
Xavi also refused to confirm whether Dembele would face Athletic. The coach told reporters that they would have to wait until the matchday squad is announced to find out.
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