Chelsea face a battle to get their hands on Ousmane Dembele this summer with Barcelona boss Xavi desperately trying to persuade the Catalans’ board to keep the attacker.
Barcelona are understood to have been keen to offload the France star in January and Chelsea and PSG were keen. However, neither club could get a deal over the line for the player, who was an initial £96.8m signing from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.
His time has been far from successful at the Camp Nou with 31 goals in 133 games. Much more was expected of the 24-year-old, who is out of contract this summer.
Chelsea have been tipped to go all out to land the player this summer, with Sport insisting the Blues had ditched interest in Serge Gnabry to go after Dembele again.
But that chase now looks as difficult as ever. As Xavi has opened the door for talks about a new contract for the winger.
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.
Xavi: Dembele has been professional
“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.
“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.”
Sky Sports News claims in the week after the window closed – Xavi and Dembele agreed to work together until the summer. And the outlet suggest the pair are “developing a strong understanding” after the Barca boss pleaded with club officials to keep him.
Dembele has been involved more frequently of late under Xavi. He was a starter in last weekend’s 4-1 win over Valencia.
Although he was on the bench against Napoli in midweek and made a 16-minute cameo in the 4-1 win.