While the clash against SL Benfica ended on a disappointing note for Barcelona, as they played out a goalless draw, there was a positive in the form of Ousmane Dembele’s return to action.
The Frenchman, who has been struggling with injuries this season as well, had made just one appearance prior to Tuesday’s game. And despite not being 100% fit, he made himself available for selection given what was at stake for Barca.
Dembele came on for Yusuf Demir in the 66th minute and had a decent enough outing, most notably creating a chance for Frenkie de Jong. While it was clear that he was scratchy and not fully fit, he did add some spark to the Catalans’ attacking play after his introduction.
Xavi, speaking after the game, expressed his appreciation towards the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner for playing despite not being fully ready to return.
The newly-appointed Barcelona manager also spoke about Dembele’s future at Camp Nou, claiming that he had discussed it with the winger, while adding that he hoped that the 24-year-old would sign an extension, terming him as ‘fundamental’ to his plans.
“I have spoken with Dembele about his future, I will not tell you what I have said. He is happy here. Today he has taken risks, he has a commendable attitude, there was a risk of relapse and he wanted to play, he is a winner. We will be positive and see if he renews, as he is a fundamental part of the team for me,” Xavi said.
Dembele’s current contract with Barcelona runs out at the end of the ongoing campaign. Talks over a renewal have been going on for a while but there has not been much progress achieved. Xavi, though, has been insistent since his arrival that he sees the former Borussia Dortmund ace as an integral part of his plans moving forward.
Whether that is enough to convince Dembele to put pen to paper on a new contract remains to be seen.
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