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The Ousmane Dembele Situation: Barcelona’s Way Forward

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How can the club get the best out of the youngster?

FC Barcelona v PSV - UEFA Champions League Group B Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

With word spreading like wildfire of Ousmane Dembele’s absence from Barcelona training prior to Sunday’s match with Real Betis, the media have whipped up a tirade of rumours regarding tension at the club and Dembele’s possible departure. In an attempt to avert gossip that strays from the truth, the facts are as follows: Dembele was absent from training last Thursday, and the way in which he informed management of his inability to attend training was unsatisfactory, allegedly being in contravention of club rules. He was subsequently omitted from the squad for the Real Betis game at the weekend.

Whilst there have been rumours surrounding Dembele possibly departing the club over this dispute and possible interest from Liverpool and Arsenal, Barcelona General Sporting Manager Pep Segura refuted these claims, stating that: “There is no problem with Dembele. Dembele is very young and has never had to make an effort like the one he is doing now to adapt to Barca’s game.” This statement proves that any reports of Barca intending to sell the youngster are falsifications.

Real Sociedad v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Something else that urgently needs to be addressed is the rumour that Dembele is somehow “struggling” to fit in with Barca’s playing style. If anything, Dembele has played effectively as both a starting 11 player and an impact sub. Not only has he already bagged six goals and two assists in all competitions, but he successfully stepped up against major opponents such as Inter Milan, Sevilla and Real Madrid, whereby he effectively pressurised defenders, took the occasional shot, showcased classy dribbling skills and assisted his team-mates in scoring. He also has the edge over most of Barca’s attacking alternatives, such as Munir, Rafinha and Malcom.

Whilst Dembele has not started many games recently, this is not a testament of his lack of ability to do so. Any Barca fan who has followed Valverde’s career at the Camp Nou knows that he has a record of making suspect squad selections that many fans disagree with. To criticise Dembele based on a lack of game time would be the same as underplaying the talents of Vidal and Malcom, as well as past players such as Alcacer, which is downright nonsensical. Dembele is an asset to this Barcelona squad, and as such, the champions should look to find a way forward with the French youngster.

Real Valladolid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Now to move on to Dembele’s attitude. Whilst a failure to alert management of one’s absence from training could be deemed unprofessional, it is important to take Dembele’s youth and inexperience into consideration. As Gerard Pique stated, “We were also young and we have also committed mistakes. From experience, we have to help him to understand that football is a 24-hour job and he has to live accordingly.” This statement is one that both Dembele and Barca management should pay close attention to. Dembele should take accountability for his actions, and reflect on the ways in which he can rectify his mistakes. It is his responsibility to own up to his actions and commit to improving his ways at Barcelona and mending his relationship with Valverde and co. The responsibility of Barca management in this regard is to take Dembele’s youth and potential immaturity into account, and take reasonable disciplinary action that will not compromise the player’s future at the club.

Any permanent disposal of Dembele’s services would be a costly mistake, and would effectively discard a promising future for both the player and the club. Reconciliation is necessary, and the sooner it is done, the sooner Dembele and Blaugranes’ management can leap this hurdle and elevate Barca to new heights.