Ousmane Dembele has been linked with a move to the Premier League over the last 18 months and is nearing the end of his Barcelona contract after an injury-hit spell
Barcelona will need to make a decision on Ousmane Dembele sooner rather than later, with the French forward’s contract due to expire at the end of the season.
The 24-year-old, who signed for an initial €105m (£97m) from Dortmund in 2017, will be free to speak to potential suitors in January if he is unable to agree a new deal before the turn of the year.
While Dembele has not played a minute for Barcelona this season due to injury, manager Ronald Koeman has made clear his stance on the future of a player who is expected to be in high demand if he leaves Camp Nou.
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Speaking in a press conference ahead of Barcelona’s midweek match against Rayo Vallecano, Koeman suggested the club would not be held to ransom over a new deal for Dembele.
“If he doesn’t want to renew, we have to speak as a club what the best way forward is,” the manager said.
“Still, we have not spoken of what our strategy will be if he doesn’t renew,” Koeman added, though he maintained Barcelona are keen to reach an arrangement to prolong the player’s stay.
Liverpool were linked with the player before he joined Barcelona, and their manager Jurgen Klopp rented a property to Dembele during the Frenchman’s Bundesliga spell.
His one year in Germany came under current Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, when he registered 11 Bundesliga assists to help his club finish third.
Manchester United were also reportedly interested before completing a move for Dembele’s Dortmund successor Jadon Sancho, while he is also among the players to be mentioned in connection with Newcastle since their takeover.
Dembele has played just 118 times for Barcelona in his four seasons with the club, due to a succession of injury setbacks.
He made more appearances last season than in any of his previous three, only to suffer a knee injury on international duty with France at Euro 2020.
The forward has returned to training this week, having not yet played for Barcelona this term, but the game against Rayo comes too soon for him.
Dembele’s injury history is known to potential suitors, but so is his undoubted quality.
Koeman is understandably keen to extend the stay of a player who could be a valuable first-team asset as Barcelona aim to rebuild in their first season since the departure of Lionel Messi.
However, with less than three months remaining before Dembele is permitted to speak to other clubs, there is a sense that the Catalan club will not bow to any pressure when it comes to deciding his future.