Ousmane Dembélé (Vernon, France; 25) returns to Barcelona. never really left. The striker, whose link with the Barça entity had expired on June 30, signed a new contract on Thursday until 2024. The Frenchman, however, could not bear his anguish and, after putting himself agreement with Xavi Hernández, from this Tuesday he had already started training with his old-new teammates at Ciudad Deportiva, while the agreement was not yet concluded.
Without Xavi on the bench, it would be impossible to understand Dembélé’s continuity at Camp Nou. The coach has never hidden his weakness for the winger. He did it as soon as he arrived at Barça. “He can be the best in the world in his position,” said the Catalan coach on the day of his presentation. He again showed his bet on Dembélé during the last winter market. Barça had therefore not reached an agreement with the player’s agents for the renewal of the contract and the sports management forced the coach to do without the Frenchman. “Dembélé must leave immediately,” said Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany. But Xavi was patient. He waited for the end of the transfer window and knocked on the door of sports management again. “We have to be smart and put our egos aside. We have to take advantage of Ousmane,” insisted the coach.
With Xavi in charge, Dembélé played 31 games, averaging 62 minutes per duel. Figures higher than those the Frenchman signed with Ernesto Valverde (55), but lower than those he signed with Ronald Koeman (64). However, the winger has never been more comfortable at Camp Nou than with Xavi. “You can say he was a player until recently. He treats all the players very well. It hooked us all. There is a lot of communication, ”the Frenchman usually explains to his entourage. affection of the technician.” I see him happy and he has been a great professional. I haven’t had a single problem with him. I have heard of everything. But since I’ve been here he takes care of himself, he trains well and he’s positive with the group,” Xavi said. His lack of discipline came to an end – in April, he even showed up for training on his day off – as he began to perform on the pitch: two goals and 13 assists. In fact, he finished the course as Barca’s best assist provider. But above all, the injuries have passed (13 since he signed for Barcelona in 2017). “The staff is top” admits Ousmane in private, and those who have closely experienced the evolution of the Frenchman remember with astonishment that “before he did the same preparation as Busi, with two completely different bodies. This has changed.”
It happened, however, that when it looked like Dembélé was finally flourishing at Camp Nou, the sports management preferred to get rid of the French. The argument? His high salary, close to 11 million euros net per season. Conversations between Mateu Alemany and the Frenchman’s agent, Moussa Sissoko, had become tense and increasingly sporadic. So Xavi stepped in again. The coach interrupted his vacation to attend the meeting that changed Dembélé’s destiny. Monday, June 27, at the Ciudad Deportiva, Alemany and Sissoko smoothed things over and got closer. Always under the watchful eye of Xavi and the technical secretary, Jordi Cruyff.
A week later, Dembélé’s contract was finalized. The club wanted to bring Dembele’s salary closer to Ansu Fati’s and the Frenchman wanted to donate as little money as possible. As they explain from the players’ environment, he rejected two higher offers than Barcelona. A link was then agreed between the fixed and the variable, which satisfied both parties.
And Xavi breathed. He won the second and final impulse for Dembélé. The Frenchman privately thanks Xavi for his treatment: “He gave me confidence,” he says. Now it’s his turn to thank him on the pitch.
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