Madrid (AFP) – Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has suggested Ousmane Dembele could be sold this month after saying the winger must sign a new contract or “we will look for an exit for the player”.

Barca are desperate to avoid Dembele leaving on a free transfer when his contract expires in the summer and would at least pocket a fee for the 24-year-old if he is sold in the current transfer window.

Dembele has suffered numerous injuries since joining from Borussia Dortmund in a deal worth 140 million euros ($158.9 million), in 2017.

Yet after losing several key players to reduce the club’s debts, Barcelona have been keen to keep the Frenchman, who remains one of the team’s most talented players.

Xavi said talks have been ongoing for five months and that “we cannot wait any longer”.

He added he is “not contemplating” leaving Dembele in the stands until the summer.

“Either the player renews or we look for an exit for the player, there is no other possibility,” said Xavi at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We are in a complicated situation and we have been very clear with Ousmane.

“He wants to stay but it has not been agreed so we have to make a decision as a club and that is either to renew or find an exit.

“It’s a shame. He has played every possible minute since I have been coach.”

Xavi would not confirm whether Dembele will be involved on Thursday, when Barcelona play away at Athletic Bilbao in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.

Ferran Torres is likely to start after making his debut in the Spanish Super Cup defeat by Real Madrid on Wednesday.

“He looks good,” said Xavi.

“He has missed some of the rhythm of competition but this week he has trained 100 per cent, he has recovered from his injury and tomorrow will be important for him.”