MADRID, Spain, Feb 2 – Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Wednesday it will be up to coach Xavi Hernandez whether Ousmane Dembele plays in the second half of the season, after the Frenchman refused to sign a new contract.
But Laporta also said Dembele’s likely departure when his contract expires in the summer will make it “more difficult for him to play”.
Barca told Dembele he had to renew his deal or leave in the January transfer window but he did neither, insisting he would not succumb to “blackmail” by the club.
Laporta has claimed Dembele turned down a move to an English team on Monday, with Barca believing the winger has already agreed to join another club in the summer.
Despite the dispute, it will be tempting for Xavi to use the talented 24-year-old, especially as Barcelona face a fight to finish in La Liga’s top four this season.
Asked if Dembele would continue playing for the team, Laporta said: “That will be decided by the coach.”
“What I do think is that the coach is working for this season and also for the next one so a player who has not decided to renew – which means probably we won’t have him next season because there must be another club that has an agreement with him – it’s more difficult for him to play,” Laporta added.
Barcelona’s president was speaking at the presentation of Adama Traore, who has joined on loan from Wolves.
Barca’s technical director Jordi Cruyff suggested Traore’s arrival also reduces the need to select Dembele.
“The club has brought players who are direct and can score goals. Xavi has a wider range of options in that area than in December,” Cruyff said.