Barcelona boss Xavi spoke to reporters ahead of his team’s Copa del Rey last 16 clash against Athletic in a pretty interesting press conference.
The coach discussed Ousmane Dembele at some length, spoke about Ronald Araujo’s future, Memphis Depay’s fitness and captain Sergio Busquets.
Here are the best bits:
Xavi on Athletic
There are a very intense team. They work well. Marcelino has been one of the best coaches in Spanish football in recent years. They are very intense, aggressive, demanding, we have to be very precise. They have a great group of players, they work very well. It’s a big challenge for us and it will be complciated, especially away from home, in a single game tie.
Xavi on Dembele
The situation is complex, it’s difficult. The club has made the decision that if he does not renew we need to find a solution for him and for us. We have waited a long time. It’s not an easy decision. We’ve been at this for five months now, we’ve been having conversations with the player and his agent and we can’t wait any longer. Either he renews or we look for a solution. It’s a complicated situation, the player knows it, it’s not easy for anyone, for me, the player, the club but we need to stop this and find a solution. We want the best for the player and for us. The most important thing are the interests of the club.
Xavi on putting Dembele in the stands?
No, that’s not an option. The options are either he renews or we find a solution. There’s no other way out. We’ve been very clear with Ousmane. And you get to the point where you can’t understand the situation. He says he wants to renew but there’s no resolution. So either he renews or we look for a solution in terms of him leaving the club. He knows the project. He’s played every single minute he’s been able to since I’ve been coach. But him sitting in the stands for the rest of the season is not an option.
Xavi on Busquets on the bench
It’s a result of not having results. There’s been criticism of others and me as well. This is Barca. For me, Busquets is indispensable as a player on and off the field. He’s a spectacular player. It’s obvious he made a mistake [against Real Madrid], he knows that, we all need to try and improve. He needs to be comfortable in order to play 100% but he is unquestionable as a player. He’s a very important piece for us, very important in the way we want to play. I have no doubts.
Xavi on Dembele’s agent’s comments
I don’t want to reply to anyone. I don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone. The message is clear. Renew or we look for a way out. There’s nothing else left.
Xavi on Ansu’s best position
It will depend on who is available as well. He can adapt to both positions. He’s played most of his career as a No. 9 but he’s good on the wing as well. He can play deep, he can make long runs, he’s adapted well to that wing position. He’s been out for a long time, we need to make him feel comfortable. He played very well in the Super Cup. He is a player who is a star. He’s capable of making the dfiference in every game. He’s a spectacular football player and it’s a privilege for me to have him at nearly 100%
Xavi on if Dembele will be in the squad
We will decide tomorrow. It depends on many things. The club will decide tomorrow.
Xavi on what’s the problem with Dembele?
He says he wants to renew. He says he wants to continue. It’s a question for him. Tomorrow we have a very important game for our future in the season and I understand the interest. I’ve been clear and I can’t be more clear. Either he renews or we look for a way out. There are no other options. We need to make a decision and that’s what we’ve decided.
Xavi on Memphis Depay/who’ll play up front
Memphis has some nagging pain, he didn’t train today, tomorrow we’ll decide. I’m thinking more of a No. 9, one that can makes runs into the box. Jutgla, Ansu, Torres can all play there. We’ll see tomorrow.
Xavi on Ferran Torres
This week has been good for him. What he was lacking the other day was rhythm, lack of training, this week has been very positive. He’s 100%, he’s fully recovered and tomorrow he’ll play an important role.
Xavi on Ronald Araujo’s new contract
Yes, it’s a priority, he’s a very important piece. He is an extraordinary defender. He has a winning and positive character. It is very important that they can reach an agreement quickly because he is a player much needed, now and in the future. I am very happy with Ronald’s performance and how he is off the pitch as well. His behavior and attitude are greatly appreciated. It all adds up and Ronald is a guy who adds a lot definitely.
Xavi on Braithwaite
We’ll see tomorrow if he can be in the squad. Martin is a player with a great winning character, he’s a great professional, he’s shortened his recovery and he’s going to come back and have minutes and help us.
Xavi on if Dani Alves will stay past this season
We’ll go in terms of how he plays, how he performs. Dani’s playing well and we’ll make a decision at the end of the season.