A former member of the club's sporting direction has said that the club knew about Dembélé's issues and stated his "entourage" is part of the problem.
Urban Ortega, former right hand to Barcelona’s ex-sporting director Robert Fernandez and one of those responsible with bringing Ousmane Dembélé to the Camp Nou, has said that the club were already well aware of the young French player’s disciplinary problems when they signed him in the summer of 2017.
"We already knew about how he was and about his entourage. In fact he had already had problems at Rennes, where he didn’t want to sign the professional contract at first. We had good information about him at the technical level and some facts about his indiscipline due to his youth and because of the people that surround him, which do not help him at times,” recalled Ortega in an interview with Catalan radio programme, Esports Cope.
“We had that information, but in the end you have to take risks and you think that since he’s young, he can turn the situation around.”
Ortega also spoke about the controversial summer departure of colleague and friend Robert Fernandez, who was replaced by former Barcelona player Eric Abidal in his role as sporting director.
"I maintain a friendship with Robert; we have gotten along for more than 38 years. We did a good job. I don’t know who made the decision, but it is true that I was directly connected with Robert. I don’t care if I'm connected with a friend, but there are things that should be valued before that. Most of the players that are now in the squad were brought in by Robert and me in recent years.”
Ortega: Mbappé was also option in 2017
Returning to the topic of Dembélé, Ortega acknowledged that Mbappé was also a possibility in the summer of 2017, but that they finally opted for the current Barcelona number ‘11’.
"Not only were there the options of Dembélé and Mbappé, there were some more. In the end, because of different circumstances you have to decide on one.”
Ortega also wanted to re-emphasize the work well done during his time at Barcelona, bringing up the case of Arthur, whom, he said, he spotted in Brazil when he was 16 years old. The now 22-year-old completed his move from Gremio in the summer for 30 million euros and has impressed in the Blaugrana jersey so far this season.
"He was [playing] in a Brazilian U-17 tournament,” recalled Ortega. “Every year we traveled there four, five or six times to see under-age tournaments, which is really where you see the players that end up coming to Europe.”