Dembele 'won't give in to blackmail' after being told to leave Barcelona
Madrid (AFP) – Ousmane Dembele hit back at Barcelona on Thursday by saying he "won't give in to blackmail" after the club's director of football Mateu Alemany said the winger must leave before the end of January.
Dembele's contract expires in the summer and talks over a new deal have broken down. 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, who joined from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 in a deal worth 140 million euros ($158.9 million), was left out of the squad to face Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey on Thursday night.
Referring to the "gossip" surrounding him in recent years, Dembele wrote on social media: "From today it finishes. From today I am going to reply honestly, without giving in to any kind of blackmail."
"I forbid anyone from thinking I am not committed to the sporting project," Dembele added. "I forbid anyone from attributing intentions to me that I have never had."
Dembele appeared to suggest negotiations would continue, although notably did not say he wanted to stay at Barcelona.
"As you all know, there are negotiations," he wrote. "I leave my agent in charge of those, it's his area. My area is the ball, simply to play football and share moments of happiness with my teammates and all the fans."
Barca have been desperate to avoid Dembele leaving for free. With debts of over a billion euros, the club could at least pocket a fee for the 24-year-old if he is sold in the current transfer window.
"With Ousmane and his agent, we began conversations around July, so it's been six months and a bit," Alemany said earlier on Thursday.
"We've talked, we've talked, we've talked. Barca has made different offers.
"We've tried to find a way for the player to continue with us, but these offers have been systematically rejected by his agents and today, January 20, eleven days before the last period of his contract ends, it seems obvious to us that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona and he is not committed to Barca's future project.
"In this scenario, he and his agents have been informed that he must leave immediately because we want players committed to this project and therefore we hope that a transfer will take place before January 31."
Dembele did not travel with the rest of the squad to Bilbao on Thursday, with all indications suggesting he will not be involved in the team until a solution is found.
"The sporting consequence of all this, as agreed by our coach, is that we do not want to have players who are not committed to the project and who do not want to be at Barca," Alemany said.
"The club is obviously not the one that should decide this, it is the coach, and he has decided it.
"But he has all our support and we understand it perfectly. It seems to us absolutely the correct approach."
Barca coach Xavi Hernandez said on Wednesday "we cannot wait any longer" and that "either the player renews or we look for an exit for the player, there is no other possibility."
He also said he is "not contemplating" leaving Dembele sitting in the stands until the summer.
"It's a shame. He has played every possible minute since I have been coach," said Xavi.
Dembele has suffered numerous injuries in recent years and has largely been a huge disappointment at Camp Nou.
Yet after losing several key players to reduce the club's debts, Barca have been keen to keep Dembele, who despite his many setbacks remains one of their most talented players.
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