Ousmane Dembele has been told to leave Barcelona with “immediate” effect after the winger rejected the club’s latest contract offer.
The 24-year-old is currently in the last six months of his present Barca deal and attempts to negotiate fresh terms at the Camp Nou have proven ineffective.
On Wednesday afternoon, Barca head coach Xavi issued Dembele a contract ultimatum, telling a press conference ahead of the club’s Copa del Rey tie with Athletic Bilbao that unless the winger signs a new deal in Catalonia, “we will find a way to sell him in January. No other way”.
Less than 24 hours later, Barca’s director of football, Mateu Alemany, has now revealed Dembele will not be putting pen to paper on a new deal, but instead the club will seek to cash in on the winger this month, rather than risk losing him on a free in the summer.
Alemany told reporters ahead of the Athletic Bilbao match: “With Ousmane and his agents we started conversations around the month of July.
“In all this time, almost seven months, we have talked, Barca has made different offers, we have tried to find a way for the player to continue with us and those offers have been continuously rejected by his agents.
“It seems obvious to us that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona and is not committed to Barca’s future project.
“We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want to have players committed to the project.
“We expect a transfer to take place before January 31. The sporting consequence is that we don’t want to have players who don’t want to be at Barca.
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“The fact that he was not in the [squad] list for today is the consequence of this whole process. The coach has our full support, it’s a consistent attitude.”
The Frenchman joined the Camp Nou club for a £135m in 2017 from Borussia Dortmund following Neymar’s move to PSG, with the 2018 World Cup winner largely seen as the ideal successor to his Brazilian counterpart.
However, continued issues with injuries, a lack of consistency and uncertainty in the Barcelona dugout over the last few seasons has seriously hampered his progress at the Camp Nou, restricting him to just 58 (out of a possible 172) La Liga starts since signing in 2017/18.
A number of Premier League clubs have been linked with Dembele’s signature, not least nouveau riche Newcastle United, as well as usual big hitters Manchester United and Liverpool. The next 11 days will now be fuelled by speculation as to where Dembele could end up.
And one possibility, according to Dembele himself, is actually staying put. Shortly after Alemany’s comments, the Frenchman took to social media to say that contract talks remain “ongoing”, and he will be available to play for Barca should Xavi need him.
Dembele wrote on his Instagram: “Don’t think I’m out of the project. Don’t speak of intentions I never had.
“I have a contract and I’m available for Xavi. I’m not gonna give up.
“There are contract talks ongoing. My agent is on it – I’m only focusing on the pitch.”