Ousmane Dembélé must sign new Barcelona contract or leave, says Xavi | Barcelona

Xavi Hernández has delivered Ousmane Dembélé a public ultimatum: extend your contract or leave now. The Barcelona manager said the 24-year-old, whose deal expires at the end of the season, had told him that he wanted to continue at the club but no agreement has been reached.

With little prospect of a solution and Dembélé’s agent Moussa Sissoko accusing the club of mishandling negotiations, patience has run out. “We’re in a position in which we have to stop this right now,” Xavi said. “Either he renews or we will look for an exit for him.”

Whether Barcelona are able to impose that ultimatum is another matter, with Xavi admitting that Dembélé has the “upper hand”. He can leave for free at the end of the season and has been allowed to talk to other clubs since 1 January.

The coach was inclined to continue playing him even if he admitted that he intends to depart, but the club are considering leaving him out of the squad for the remaining six months if he does not renew – not least as a means of forcing a solution. It is a threat that Sissoko accused them of having already made: “That will not work with us,” he said.

Asked about the prospect of leaving Dembélé in the stands for six months, Xavi said: “That’s not something I’m contemplating.”

“I too ask myself why he says he wants to renew but hasn’t,” Xavi said, hinting at the apparently different positions held by Sissoko and his client, as well as the possibility that Dembélé has not been honest with Barcelona, seeming instead to avoid a commitment. The coach was speaking before Barcelona’s Copa del Rey meeting on Thursday with Athletic Club and he admitted that a decision must be made on whether or not to leave Dembélé out of the squad. He and Mateu Alemany, the director of football, were due to meet for further discussions on Wednesday.

When Xavi was presented as Barcelona’s manager, he insisted that Dembélé could be “the best in the world” in his position, describing his renewal as a “priority”. Alongside him the president, Joan Laporta, smiled and said: “Understood.”

His renewal was also a means to free up salary mass and enable them to sign other players, the dependence on Dembélé’s deal deepening. But no agreement has been reached, the player’s camp reportedly asking for a salary of about €40m a year. “If Barcelona had wanted to negotiate they could have sat down with us to discuss it,” Sissoko said.

Alemany insisted during the presentation of Ferran Torres: “We have been very patient. They knew we want him to stay and he has our offer. We can’t delay much longer.”

Now, with 12 days remaining in this transfer window, they have decided that they cannot delay any more. Xavi also revealed the extent to which he has had to adopt the position of the club. With pessimism growing to the point where Barcelona no longer believe Dembélé intends to sign a new deal, they have sought to force the issue and break the deadlock.

“In the end, the club has decided that if he doesn’t renew, we have to seek a solution,” Xavi said. “We have to do what’s best for the club. It’s five months now that Mateu Alemany has been talking to him and his representatives.

“I have been very honest with him. It’s not an easy situation. It doesn’t feel good but the club’s interests have to come first. This case is very complex and we have reached a point where we have to decide. The player has to think about the club a bit. He knows what the project is; I couldn’t have put more trust in him.”

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