BARCELONA (AFP) – After accusing Ousmane Dembele of “blackmail” in January, Barcelona president Joan Laporta yesterday said he “hoped” the French winger would “think” about extending his contract “at the end of the season”.
Laporta’s remarks followed a dazzling display by the 24-year-old French World Cup winner against Athletic Bilbao early Monday.
Dembele’s contract expires at the end of the season and, in January, Barca told the Frenchman he should leave if he refused to sign.
At the time Laporta said Dembele’s contract holdout would make it “more difficult for him to play”.
After being dropped for two matches and spending a third on the bench, Dembele has returned to the starting lineup for the last two Liga games.
On Monday, he turned the jeers to cheers at Camp Nou by scoring a stunning goal, his first in La Liga this season, and setting up two more in a 4-0 victory over Bilbao before going off to an ovation after 67 minutes.
“Dembele knows our offer and knows that we always wanted him to stay. We hope he will think again at the end of the season,” Laporta said at a conference on the future of Barcelona.
“In football, you can never rule anything out. Look: he could not play, and now he plays, and he plays well. But his contract extension does not depend on me.”
Xavi, the Barca coach, praised Dembele after Monday’s game but said he had nothing to do with whether the striker stays
“He is a great professional. Let’s encourage him,” said Xavi. “It’s not a question for me, it’s a question for the club, for Ousmane,” Xavi said. “His contract ends. Nothing can be ruled out in football. He couldn’t play and now he’s playing. He can be the best in his position.”
Even though Barcelona added Adama Traore, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres in the January window, Xavi said: “Circumstances have made it necessary to find a solution with Ousmane.”