France international Ousmane Dembele has been named on the Barcelona squad for Sunday’s crunch Spanish league match against Atletico Madrid despite his ongoing contract standoff with the Liga side.
Xavi Hernandez has opted to stick with the talented 24-year-old despite reinforcements — Adama Traoré, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres — signed in the winter transfer window as Barcelona face a fight to finish in La Liga’s top four this season.
Xavi had warned Dembele on January 19 that he had to “extend” his contract or “leave” the club.
But the Barcelona coach conceded that he had no choice but to recall the French player who warned he would not “give in to blackmail” after being left out of last month’s Copa del Rey tie against Athletic Bilbao, with the Catalans crashing out to an extra-time defeat.
“Circumstances meant that we had to find a solution with Ousmane,” Xavi told Saturday’s pre-match press conference.
“He is part of the club and the squad. We met and we decided that he is part of the team. We can’t afford to shoot ourselves in the foot. It’s the club’s decision and we’ll use him when we think it’s necessary. He’s a player in the team like any other.”
“A month ago, we decided one thing, but circumstances have changed,” added Xavi.
“We did everything possible to find a solution. I understand the position of the club, the player and the supporters, who can be a little disgusted.
“But we have to be selfish. He is a player who can help us achieve our goals. We are all in this together. We now think that the best for the team is that he is part of the team normally.”
The winger’s contract expires in the summer, when he will be able to leave Barcelona for free.