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Barca’s Dembele Dilemma

Decision-makers at the Nou Camp must now consider the absence of Ansu Fati... and a potential cooling of interest from Manchester United

FC Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga Santander
Ousmane Dembele attempts to round Alex Moreno of Real Betis during last weekend’s league match at Camp Nou.
Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

The enigma that is Ousmane Dembele...

Barcelona look to be walking into the perfect storm with their young Frenchman, a player who cost the club €105m when he signed from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

He’s been used sparingly ever since, and with 18 months left on his contract the Blaugrana must decide what to do.

They were prepared to move him on to Manchester United in the summer on a ‘loan with compulsory purchase option’, and although the clubs were close on the deal, the player himself turned United down, preferring to remain at Camp Nou.

Dembele seems in no hurry to leave Barca, but the club will wish to recoup at least a healthy chunk of the huge fee they shelled out for the player, particularly as new boss Ronald Koeman is a great admirer of Lyon’s Memphis Depay and would like to have the Dutch winger installed at Camp Nou.

But the recent injury to Ansu Fati may alter all equations. The 18-year-old’s torn meniscus is expected to prevent him playing for at least four months, providing an opportunity for Dembélé to finally establish himself at the club.

Barca may have no choice, and they possibly consider selling him in the January window now out of the question as he will be needed. But all the while, Dembele’s contract will continue to run down, perhaps forcing Barcelona to offer the player a new one, rather than risking taking too much of a hit on their original purchase price.

Dembele who was way down the pecking order at the outset of this season, is not trusted by Barcelona’s coaching staff. Although he scored, the recent match in Betis displayed why. Despite being a constant threat to the Verdiblanca defence, Dembele didn’t possess the discipline to carry out his defensive disciplines, leaving Sergio Roberto exposed throughout, with only minimum support.

Despite Fati’s injury, it remains likely Barcelona will be tempted to move Dembele on in the January window should the right offer materialize, although one potential major suitor, Manchester United seem now to have cooled their interest.

Koeman would be keen to get his hands on the money to enable an approach for Depay.

If they are unable to sell in January, then Barca have a problem on their hands next summer, when Dembele’s contract will have only 6 months to run.

If something cannot be thrashed out, Dembélé could be tempted to let his Barca contract run down and leave with the freedom letter under his arm. Perhaps that is his intention even now?

It would not be a good scenario for Barcelona on a player who cost more than €100m