Ousmane Dembele is providing Barcelona with plenty of headaches this season both on and off the pitch, but Valverde seems to be backing him…for now
In a season where Barcelona have been relatively calm to date (even after losing against Real Betis, they’re still top of LaLiga and already qualified for the Champions League Last 16 round), Ousmane sticks out like a sore thumb.
Just what is going on inside that unruly head? Barça’s board are unable to answer. There’s only one single true fact at this point: nobody inside the club is happy with Dembelé’s behaviour.
He was signed in summer 2017 for a hefty fee ($140 million plus some $45 million in bonus) as one of the replacements after Neymar Junior fled the team. His impact in his first season as a Culé, though, wasn’t up to par: he could only play 25 games due to a serious injury, with four goals scored. Disappointing? Of course, but the managerial team expected him to improve in his sophomore season.
At this point, that dream is slowly turning into a nightmare. And the player himself is the only one to blame.
Last week, Dembelè was nowhere to be found in a morning training session. Nobody knew where he was. As journalists began asking questions, he was finally found after 90 minutes of frantic phone-calls and text messages. The player pleaded that he was suffering from stomach pain, but Valverde didn’t buy it. He was left out from the match-day squad for the Betis game for his indiscipline, even though the coach never admitted it in the press conference.
To add insult to injury, this week we learned that Dembelè’s former landlord in Dortmund has sued him due to the “fair amount of damage” inflicted to the flat where the player used to live when he played for Borussia. He’s demanding over $23,000 in compensation. It seems the venue was “full of garbage” and hadn’t been properly taken care of.
Dembele breaking the Barcelona rules
Every Barça player who isn’t included in the match-day squad is expected to be, when the game is held at Camp Nou, inside the stadium at least half an hour before the kick-off. However, Dembelé didn’t bother to follow even that simple rule: he was spotted by the TV cameras entering the executive box when the game was already underway.
Yes he did: the French winger was again late to the game he had already been left out of for being late in the first place.
Why can’t he follow the rules? Inside the locker room, his own team mates try to publicly help him out by having his back. “We all have been young and naïve and made mistakes. We must use our experience to help him to understand that being a football player is a 24/7 job. I’m sure he will improve in that sense”, stated captain Gerard Piqué after their loss against Real Betis (2-4).
However, even team mates and coaches aren’t sure about the possibility of turning this issue around. Barça believed Ousmane should improve his health and diet, but it didn’t took long before the player fired the cook that tried to help him with that matter. Pep Segura, Barça’s man in charge, and Eric Abidal had a meeting recently with Dembelé’s agent and warned him about the player’s anarchic attitude.
Dembelé, however, doesn’t seem that worried about his current status. His last public appearance was only a few hours ago, dancing around with his friend Antoine Griezmann in a video shared on social media. And that might be the problem: he just isn’t aware of how much disappointment he is generating with his unprofessional antics.