Ousmane Dembélé dominated the final days of the January transfer window, with the rumor mill convincing themselves that the oft-injured yet immensely talented winger could be rescued from his Barcelona nightmare and expiring contract by Chelsea. Obviously that didn’t happen, though we did leave things off on the note that Dembélé would “prefer” Chelsea once his Barcelona contract was up this summer.
The one thing that the rumor mill did not expect however was a fit-again Dembélé and Barcelona manager Xavi patching things up, and the 24-year-old playing a key role in their revival in the second half of the season — collecting an eye-popping 11 assists in 14 La Liga appearances since the start of February. The narrative had shifted to Dembélé wanting to stay and sign a new contract, and while that may still be the eventual outcome, we of course cannot get there without some more drama.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta has confirmed in a radio interview that the ball’s in the player’s court, and an agreement is not exactly assured.
“He wants to stay, but he is very tempted by other options that may offer better conditions. The offer has been on the table for a long time and they have asked us until the end of the season to respond. We wanted an answer sooner but we can’t force it.
“The coach and I like him. We have made a very important effort to keep him. I see him very comfortable. There is a good personal relationship with everyone. Auba has come, with whom he is very good friends. He has some representatives who control the situation, but I hope he stays. If not, we will strengthen that position.”
-Joan Laporta; Catalunya Radio via Barca Blaugranes
Dembélé has been linked with PSG, Bayern Munich, and of course Chelsea — with Bayern perhaps the current favorites, though I’m sure we could find links to most of Europe’s elite. As we’ve seen in an increasing number of cases, players taking to free agency can ensure massive paydays for themselves with their new clubs not having to spend anything on a transfer fee. (I should note that our friend and sports lawyer Jake Cohen advocated for this paradigm shift a long time ago!)
Anyway, with Chelsea’s ownership situation slowly clarifying, we can get down to the squad planning business as well. Could a Dortmund-inspired reunion between Thomas Tuchel and Dembélé be on the cards? I wouldn’t bet against that story popping up before the kid decides his next move. We do have plenty of options in his positions, but those options could be tempted by other offers, too.