Ousmane Dembélé will be out of contract at the end of the season, Barça want him to renew but he is dragging his feet. In a few months he will be a free agent and he has a few attractive offers on the table - which is understandable because he is a player who makes a difference. We’ve seen what he is capable of in the last few games when Xavi has brought him on to give the team some extra sparkle – at the risk that he might suffer a relapse of his injury with the ‘the final in Munich’ looming. He invigorated the team in the weekend game against Betis even though Barça ended up losing. He has the same effect under Sergi Barjuan during the brief run-out he was given against Dynamo Kiev. In a year where Barcelona, as Piqué put it, “Have to make do with what we’ve got” it turns out that, pending Ansu Fati’s return, Dembélé is the member of the squad who gives most cause for hope. For Xavi, renewing his contract is a priority and he has made that quite clear.
Dembélé pros and cons
However, how much can you give a player who has missed so many games and who hasn’t provided a steady supply of goals? Barça have offered him a contract centred around performance-related bonuses but with a modest basic fixed wage. It’s not easy to see him accepting if he’s got better offers. And not everyone is in agreement about making an effort with a player who still shows signs of tardiness (he’s been late for one of Xavi’s training sessions and he was an hour in arriving for Pedri’s dinner) and whose injuries are quite likely related to his habit of staying up late playing videogames and eating pizza. The club offered him his own private cook and he turned it down, convinced that he was a double agent, planted to spy on him.
A different player
On the other hand there are those who think that letting him leave would be effectively a waste of five years’ investing in the player, that he will come good when he matures, that his game is less unbridled, that his decision-making has improved. Also, there are no players with his profile currently on the market and that Vinicius is the perfect example of how being patient with a player can work wonders. Meanwhile, Xavi is already being asked in press conferences whether he would consider leaving Dembélé out of the team if he doesn’t renew as a way of putting pressure on the player. It’s a logical point in the ugly context of football, where bullying is institutionalized. Xavi said he wouldn’t because that’s not his style. And also because he is not prepared to miss what Dembélé can bring the team - whether it’s a little or a lot, it’s something different.