Ousmane Dembele hit back at Barcelona on Thursday, saying he “will not give in to blackmail” after the club’s football director Mateu Alemany said the winger must leave before the end of January. Dembele’s contract expires in the summer and talks about a new deal have failed. Alemany said on Thursday morning “it seems clear to us that the player does not want to continue with Barcelona” and “so we hope that a transfer will take place before January 31”.
Dembele, who came over from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for a deal worth 140 million euros ($158.9 million), was excluded from the selection on Thursday evening to face Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey.
Referring to the “gossip” that has surrounded him in recent years, Dembele wrote on social media: “As of today, it’s over. From today, I’m going to answer honestly, without giving in to any form of blackmail.”
“I forbid anyone to think that I am not committed to the sporting project,” Dembele added. “I forbid anyone to ascribe to me intentions I never had.”
Dembele appeared to suggest that negotiations would continue, although he specifically declined to say he wanted to stay at Barcelona.
“As you all know, there are negotiations,” he wrote. “I leave my agent for that, it’s his area. My area is the ball, just to play football and share moments of happiness with my teammates and all the fans.”
Barça have done everything they can to prevent Dembele from leaving for free. With debts of well over a billion euros, the club could at least get compensation for the 24-year-old if he is sold in the current transfer window.
“We started talks with Ousmane and his agent around July, so it’s been six months,” Alemany said earlier on Thursday.
“We’ve talked, we’ve talked, we’ve talked. Barca have made several offers.
“We have tried to find a way for the player to stay with us, but these offers have been systematically rejected by his agents and today, January 20, 11 days before the last period of his contract expires, it seems clear to us that the player wants no further with Barcelona and he is not committed to Barca’s future project.
“In this scenario, he and his agents have been told that he must leave immediately because we want to use players for this project and so we hope that a transfer will take place before January 31.”
Dembele did not travel to Bilbao with the rest of the squad on Thursday, and all indications indicate that he will not be involved with the team until a solution is found.
“The sporting consequence of all this, as agreed by our coach, is that we don’t want to have players who are not committed to the project and who do not want to be at Barca,” said Alemany.
“Obviously it’s not the club that has to decide this, it’s the coach and he has decided.
“But he has all our support and we understand that perfectly. We think it is absolutely the right approach.”
Barca coach Xavi Hernandez said on Wednesday “we can’t wait any longer” and that “whether the player renews or we look for an exit for the player, there is no other option.”
He also said he is “not considering” having Dembele in the stands until the summer.
“It’s a shame. He’s played every possible minute since I became a coach,” said Xavi.
Dembele has suffered numerous injuries in recent years and has largely been a huge disappointment at the Camp Nou.
But after losing a number of key players to deleverage the club, Barca were keen to keep Dembele, who remains one of their most talented players despite his many setbacks.
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