What’s going on with Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona and where is the Frenchman headed next?

The arrival of Ousmane Dembélé at Barcelona in 2017 was intended to usher in a new era for the club.

Barcelona spent more than half of the world record amount it got on the fresh-faced youth who was lighting the Bundesliga on fire in the aftermath of Neymar’s startling move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Dembélé was reportedly signed for a then-club-record sum of €105 million ($119 million) in 2017, with the agreement potentially increasing to €140 million ($158.5 million), and the Frenchman is said to earn roughly €20 million ($22.5 million) every year. 

But, rather than filling Neymar’s large shoes, Dembélé became a symbol of the Catalan club’s financial mismanagement in an era in which the club has regressed from Champions League challenger to Europa League participant, arguably unfairly.

Dembélé’s time with the club appears to be drawing to an end — one that neither party could have predicted five years ago.

Although the 24-year-old’s contract is only for six months, Barcelona’s dire financial situation means the club would prefer him to leave during the January transfer window, as the club continues to struggle to sign new players. 

After the player and his agents refused multiple offers to stay during months of negotiations, Barça aired an interview with their director of football, Mateu Alemany, who suggested Dembélé “should leave immediately.” 

Later on Thursday, Dembélé issued a statement claiming that he is still available to head coach Xavi and that he will not “give in to blackmail.”

Dembélé claims he has gone four years without defending anything he has read, and that he has had to deal with “rumours” and those who “lie shamelessly” about him.

He wrote, “That ends now.” “Beginning today, I will react honestly, without succumbing to blackmail. I’m 24 years old, and, like any other man, I have flaws and flaws. I’ve had to deal with difficult situations and injuries, and Covid has had an impact on my life.”

Because of their financial resources and ability to add players mid-season, the Premier League is the most likely destination for Dembele.

Dembele is most likely to join one of the two clubs listed below. 

●   Newcastle United 

Newcastle United is the richest club in the world, thanks to a Saudi Arabian-backed acquisition, and will almost certainly be associated with everyone in the transfer market.

According to reports, the Magpies are offering Dembele a five-year contract worth €15 million (£12.6 million) every season, plus a €15 million (£12.6 million) signing bonus.

That would be a financial offer that no other club is likely to match, making the Magpies the clear frontrunners on that front.

The jury is still out on whether Dembele would want to join a relegation-threatened club that could be in the Championship next season.

●   Chelsea 

With Barcelona’s relatively low loan price, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a chance on Dembele until the end of the season, especially since the club will be participating in a number of events over the next few months. Thomas Tuchel, the coach, has dealt with the Frenchman before.

He would have witnessed firsthand his versatility, which allows him to play on either side when needed. On the flanks, he’s a dangerous customer who can play with both feet. He has the ability to vastly increase the overall quality and depth of Chelsea’s attack.

Given the current state of affairs, Chelsea is in an excellent position to pick up a bargain deal in January to give their offence a much-needed boost.

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