Xavi hopes ‘model pro’ Dembele has Barca future

Xavi is hoping his burgeoning relationship with Ousmane Dembele can open the door for talks about a new contract for the Barcelona winger.

Sky Sports News has been told the pair are developing a strong understanding since Xavi lobbied the Barca board to get Dembele back into the first-team fold.

Dembele, who remains open to discussions over his long-term future despite being told to leave in January, is enjoying his current spell under the former midfielder.

Xavi said: “Ousmane’s contract is up in June and it’s a matter that’s between the club and him. I see him as being happy. He’s acting like a true professional. I’m very happy with him.

“Even when he knew he wasn’t in the squad, he’s been a model professional. I haven’t had the slightest problem with Ousmane.

“I’ve heard all sorts of things: that he hasn’t been professional and that he hasn’t looked after himself. I can tell you now that it’s the complete opposite, he’s looking after himself, is professional, has been training well, and is positive in and around the group.

Xavi on the touchline during the Real Betis loss
Xavi is developing a strong relationship with Ousmane Dembele, Sky Sports News has been told

“That’s why we – and I want to stress that it’s not just me but the club too – have decided that he’s able to play with the team. Had he been a bad professional, we may have decided on something else, but he’s been a true professional and a role model in terms of the way he’s carried himself within the group, and that’s ultimately what matters.

“We’ll have to see what happens between now and the end of the season. It’s down to the club and it’s down to him. He’s an important player and one I like.”

Their positive link is in stark contrast to the very public falling out between the board and Dembele’s representatives over his contract situation during the January transfer window.

The board told Dembele to find a new club because he was not willing to sign new terms on offer that included a considerable pay-cut and while the club were looking to sign other players in his position.

Despite interest from PSG and Chelsea, Dembele stayed and – under Xavi’s instructions – has begun to return to some of his best form.

Dembele is expected to start in tonight’s Europa League clash last-16 second-leg against Napoli.

Sky Sports News has been told that – in the week after the window closed – Xavi sat down with Dembele and they agreed to work together for the betterment of Barca for at least until the summer.

In a show of dressing room unity, Xavi subsequently announced this to the players and staff and they apparently cheered Dembele’s name as he was reintroduced into the team.

This has been reflected in the positive words about Dembele issued by team-mates and club staff to the media since then.

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