In a purely sporting sense, it has long been obvious that Ousmane Dembele and FC Barcelona are not a fit beyond his current contract, which ends next summer.
The Frenchman has enormous potential, and clearly wants to bet on it by going on the market, and at 24 years old, is in search of the best contract he will ever get for the rest of his career.
For someone who has sacrificed his life to become a world class footballer, this is his prerogative, and a mindset that all professional athletes in the modern game possess whether they are vocal about it or not.
Barcelona, who need to be prudent with their spending, are in no position to take risks on a player who has been injury prone throughout his tenure at the Camp Nou.
End of story. If people were being honest, they would admit it, and then work on a way to part ways with integrity.
But of course there’s more to the story.
Barcelona, who massively overpaid for Dembele, don’t want to see him leave for free. They have no loyalty to him. They want him under contract beyond the summer so they have leverage over him going forward.
That’s the honest truth that is being drowned out in all the noisy coverage this week.
Dembele’s agent may be throwing fuel on the fire and running a counter productive PR campaign for his client, but he knows what Barcelona are doing, and isn’t playing ball.
No one is a saint in this situation. Everyone is representing their interests.
It’s a greedy system that Barcelona has embraced to its own downfall over the past decade, and a player in Dembele who sees the system for what it is.
In modern football, there is no loyalty between clubs and players.
This is way bigger than Dembele and Barcelona.
So instead of swallowing wholesale everything you read in the Catalan press, much of which are leaks from the club itself to paint itself in a positive light over the player, see both sides of the story.
For weeks (even years), the local media has been publishing disgraceful, and at times overtly racist, hit pieces on Dembele.
They’ve called him lazy and said he doesn’t care about playing.
They’ve called him immature and childish.
They’ve written about his girlfriend problems.
These are racist tropes, and totally unacceptable.
This type of sensationalized coverage should be called out for what it is.
It inflames the passions, and it’s what gets people hurt.
It’s creates a mob mentality that has seen players and coaches harassed in the streets. Ask Ronald Koeman and Samuel Umtiti.
It’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible, and it needs to stop.
As fans and readers, we need to be smarter and consume this information more critically.
This club needs positivity in the locker room and in the board room. Cultivating that culture starts at the top. Joan Laporta and Mateu Alemeny take note.
The coverage of Dembele has been toxic, and no one emerges looking good.
If Barcelona is more than a club, it’s time it starts acting like it.