New Barcelona manager Xavi believes Ousmane Dembele has the potential to be the best player in the world in his position.
Dembele, 24, joined Barcelona in 2017 from Borussia Dortmund for £97m which, at the time, made him the second-most expensive player ever, with his Camp Nou predecessor Neymar being the most at £198m.
The Frenchman was identified by Barca as the man capable of replacing Neymar and continuing the stellar work of the Paris Saint-Germain forward, but injuries and problems with consistency have so far dictated Dembele’s time in Catalonia.
A knee injury has once again blighted Dembele’s season, with his first appearance of 2021/22 coming in the Champions League against Dynamo Kyiv last week, in which the winger made a 25-minute cameo as Sergi Barjuan’s side ran out 1-0 victors at the NSC Olimpiyskiy.
Despite his recent return, Dembele has once again been ruled out after sustaining a hamstring injury and is now set to miss the start of Xavi’s tenure. With his contract also expiring this summer, it is not yet clear where the future of Barca’s convalescing winger lies.
However, Xavi has since talked up Dembele’s status at Barca and emphasised the importance of renewing his contract, believing the club have a player on their hands who can become the world’s best on the flank.
Xavi told reporters: “For me, Dembele, he can be the best player in the world in his position.
“But you have to work with him and demand it. It depends on him, on his mentality, that he is free from injury, that he has high performance levels.
“His renewal is a priority for me.”
With Dembele’s latest visit to the treatment tables, a casualty list that’s quite extensive and Lionel Messi’s void yet to be remedied, Xavi has been tipped to explore the winter market when the window opens in January, but the Spaniard insists no plans have been made thus far regarding incomings.
He said “We are going to assess it with the club and we are going to decide. It is too soon to say, but we are going to work to strengthen the team, it is always an opportunity.
“For me, it is clear, we must recover the demand for success and that the players are clear about what they have to do in each moment of the game.”