The contract dispute between Ousmane Dembele and Barcelona appears to be growing uglier by the day.
Dembele signed for Barca for an initial fee of €105 million in 2017. It was the same summer in which Neymar departed for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record transfer. In an ideal world, his replacement would have gone on to produce similar star qualities over a long period of time.
Put simply, things haven’t quite worked out that way. Dembele has been dogged by injuries during his time at the Nou Camp. When he has returned and looked back to somewhere near his best, those injury problems have struck again.
Despite this, there aren’t many better wingers than the 24-year-old when he is in top form. The Frenchman is superb on the ball, technically gifted and possesses great pace.
Barcelona have therefore been keen to tie him down to an extension on his contract, which is due to expire this summer. But that hasn’t happened yet.
How has the Dembele/Barcelona dispute been reported?
What has been intriguing is the way the contract dispute between Ousmane Dembele and Barcelona has been portrayed in the media.
The latest update – of many – is that the player is disappointed with the signing of Ferran Torres. That’s according to Spanish outlet Sport, who claim that Barca will pay €82.5m for the Spaniard including salary commitments.
This appears to be less of a competition problem, but a financial one. Dembele has reportedly questioned why Barcelona cannot afford his salary demands but can afford to spend such huge sums on another player. For context, the Frenchman is reportedly demanding a salary package of €80m.
It’s not the first time this particular angle has been reported. Last month, Spanish journalist Santio Valle claimed that Dembele’s camp asked a similar question, but this time in relation to Barca’s pursuit of Erling Haaland.
Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, have claimed that in a December meeting between club, player and agent, the demands of Dembele’s agent were “far removed” from what Barca proposed.
But perhaps the most scathing opinion has been from a report from Sport. In an article titled ‘Dembele – liar and ungrateful’, Dembele’s attitude is described as “indefensible”, and there are claims he “cares little about his career”.
The piece finishes with the chilling line: “To great evils, great remedies…”
That wasn’t all. In a separate article from the same source, Dembele is described as “a mercenary who only plays for money”, with references made to his acrimonious departures from previous clubs Rennes and Borussia Dortmund.
His move between the aforementioned clubs was shrouded in controversy, as per The Guardian, over alleged agent fallout and undue pressure on the player himself. Meanwhile, during the summer of 2017, Dembele was suspended by Dortmund after he skipped training following a rejected Barcelona bid.
What have key Barcelona figures said about Dembele?
Barcelona manager Xavi made some cryptic comments whilst addressing the Ousmane Dembele contract dispute during a mid-season training camp.
He said: “I have already said it to him, I am waiting for him to make an effort. The situation cannot be better for him. Let’s see what he decides.
“I’m hoping that he puts in effort before deciding. I am calm and waiting for an update. It does not depend on me. It depends on the club and him.
“He should think about himself and his future.”
Barca president Joan Laporta, meanwhile, has made a number of contrasting comments relating to Dembele and the state of Barcelona’s finances.
He told Catalonian radio station TV 3 in December: “We also want him [Dembele] because he’s a great player. His representatives want the best for him, so we hope to negotiate further.
“I am enthusiastic about Dembele. He is better than Mbappe.”
This month, speaking after at the unveiling of new signing Ferran Torres, Laporta said: “Everybody should get ready, as we are back as big players in the market.”
Do Barcelona want to keep Dembele?
Laporta’s comments beg the question – why are Barcelona not agreeing to Dembele’s demands? Are the demands too high, or are the club now more relaxed about allowing the player to leave?
The question is likely answered by another quote from Xavi (as per ESPN): “If Ousmane renews, it will allow us to make one or two signings.”
The main takeaway from that is the dispute seems not to be whether Dembele wants to stay at Barca. Instead, it appears to be an attempt from the club itself to keep the player, but on a reduced salary. Given the issues involving the registration of Ferran Torres, other players may find themselves in a similar position.
What is clear is that, in order to register Torres and other potential incomings, Barca have to reduce their salary cap and sell players. Doing that in January is likely going to be difficult. Getting Dembele to reduce his contract demands could be a way of cutting costs while keeping more of the squad’s current assets. And that appears to be the general consensus in the Spanish media as well.
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