Xavi admits Barcelona ‘can’t shoot ourselves in the foot’ as he brings Ousmane Dembele back into his squad for clash with Atletico Madrid after three-week exile amid January transfer saga
- Barcelona have brought Ousmane Dembele back into the squad to face Atletico
- The Frenchman had missed the last two games due to a dispute with the club
- Barca had hoped to sell him in January but couldn’t negotiate a deal
- ‘We decided that we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot,’ Xavi said of the move
Barcelona have brought Ousmane Dembele back into the squad after a three-week exile following a contract dispute with the club.
The Frenchman had not featured for the Catalans since the 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup but was named in the side for Sunday’s match against LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp.
Barca have had a long-running dispute with Dembele over the Frenchman’s reluctance to sign a new contract and president Joan Laporta had threatened to not let him play at all in a bid to get him to sign a deal.
Ousmane Dembele has returned to the Barcelona squad after being exiled for three weeks
Barca coach Xavi said Dembele was part of the squad despite a contract dispute with the club
Dembele was resistant to signing a new contract on reduced wages and Barca tried to move him on in the final days of the transfer window but could not get a deal done.
Laporta said last week he suspected that Dembele had already signed an agreement with another club, with Spanish and French media reports suggesting he had agreed to join Paris Saint-Germain.
Speaking ahead of the game against Atletico, Xavi said the club had taken the decision to get the best out of Dembele for the rest of the season.
‘We couldn’t find a solution to Dembele’s situation. The circumstances were what they were a month ago and now they are different. He’s part of the club and the squad and he has a contract.
‘We met with the president, the board and sporting director and we have decided that he is part of the squad and we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot.
‘We have to use him and he can help us. He has been a good professional and the club has taken its decision and I’ll use him whenever it’s convenient. He’s just like any other player.’
Dembele had not played for Barca since starring in a 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid on January 12
Barcelona president Joan Laporta believes Dembele has already agreed to join another club
Dembele has failed to deliver on the potential that persuaded the Spanish club to pay 105 million euros ($120.18 million) for his services in 2017, scoring only 31 goals in 129 appearances.
Asked if the home fans would direct their ire at Dembele, who is set to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season, Xavi said: ‘I understand the position of the fans who are perhaps hurt by Dembele.
‘We have to close ranks and think about ourselves, he can help us achieve our goals. What does it matter if we were wrong or not? We are a family and we decided together what is best for the club and for the team.’
Xavi would not confirm if new signings Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could play against Atletico.
‘Both of them have trained well, Adama is in better shape,’ Xavi said. ‘Aubameyang had COVID-19 and is working individually. Tomorrow we will decide if both are available.’
Barca are fifth in the standings with 35 points after 21 games, one point behind reigning champions Atletico who are fourth.
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