Dembele returns to Barca squad as Xavi urges fans to unite behind club for Sunday’s LaLiga match against Atletico Madrid
Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele will return to the squad for Sunday’s LaLiga match against Atletico Madrid after the club failed to move him on in the January transfer window, coach Xavi Hernandez said on Saturday.
Dembele had been dropped from the squad after Barca told him to leave before the January transfer window closed when contract negotiations broke down, with the club saying a move would be mutually beneficial.
However, the 24-year-old was unable to find another club and will stay at Barca until the end of the campaign when his contract expires.
“We’ve found a solution for Ousmane Dembele. The circumstances from a month ago have changed. He has a contract,” Xavi told a news conference.
“He’s a Barca player and he is a part of the squad. We have to use him and he can help us. He’s been a good professional when he has been involved.
“It’s a club decision. We’ll use him when I think it’s convenient.”
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.