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Xavi maintains tough Barcelona stance on Dembele

Madrid (AFP) – Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said on Saturday the club would not soften their stance on Ousmane Dembele’s contract situation, despite the Frenchman’s angry riposte on social media on Thursday.

Dembele wrote he would not “give in to blackmail” after Xavi left him out of his squad to face Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey on Thursday night, following a breakdown in talks over a new deal.

The winger’s contract expires in the summer, when he will be able to leave Barcelona for free.

The club’s director of football Mateu Alemany said on Thursday morning “it seems obvious to us that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona” and “therefore we hope that a transfer will take place before January 31”.

“Dembele’s situation hasn’t changed. He knows what the options are and he has to decide,” Xavi said in a press conference ahead of Sunday’s game away at Alaves.

“There is no alternative. There are still days left (in the transfer window),” Xavi added.

It remains to be seen if Barcelona can find an exit for Dembele mid-season, either for a transfer fee or on loan. Shifting the 24-year-old’s wages would help free up space for signings.

“We are working to bring players in. We’ll see what we can do,” Xavi said.

With Dembele exiled, Barcelona could have done without Ansu Fati picking up a hamstring injury against Athletic on Thursday, with reports suggesting the 19-year-old could be out for two months.

Fati has only just returned after two months out injured, having come back in September following 10 months absent with a knee problem.

“He is very upset, it’s a difficult situation,” said Xavi.

Club doctors advised that Fati should only play 30 to 35 minutes against Athletic but the striker came on in the 61st minute and stayed on for extra-time. 

“The extra-time upset our plans,” said Xavi. “We will try to make a very specific plan so that he does not get injured again.”

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