Barcelona boss Xavi is ‘optimistic’ Ousmane Dembele will stay at the club with Chelsea, PSG and Bayern Munich waiting in the wings… and calls Robert Lewandowski a ‘possibility’ as he bids to transform the LaLiga giants into a force on all fronts next season
- Xavi is hopeful that Ousmane Dembele will help his bid to revive Barca’s fortunes
- The forward is yet to sign a new deal and Xavi accepts he cannot ‘force’ his hand
- Chelsea, PSG and Bayern have been linked with Dembele as Barca’s season ends
- A bid for Robert Lewandowski is a possibility but will not be easy, Xavi concedes
Barcelona boss Xavi is ‘optimistic’ that Ousmane Dembele will finally sign a new contract and join his summer building job – and the striker could be paired with Robert Lewandowski in his new-look team next season.
Dembele’s expiring contract has seen the France forward linked with Chelsea, PSG and Bayern Munich, although Xavi wants the 25-year-old to stay at Camp Nou after his return of 13 assists in 17 games since mid-December.
Barca’s salary limit is finally not in negative numbers this summer, allowing Xavi to avoid the catastrophic enforced cost-cutting that saw all-time top scorer Lionel Messi tearfully leave the Spanish giants in August 2021.
Xavi wants Ousmane Dembele (left) to extend his stay at Barcelona by signing a fresh contract
Bundesliga leading scorer Robert Lewandowski could add goals to Dembele’s knack for assists
A £1.3bn stadium renovation in the works and the £331m the club owes in deferred wages means Xavi remains cautious about his wage bill and transfer funds, but he hopes Dembele will sign a deal which the rookie LaLiga boss claims has been on the table for ‘a long time’.
Xavi said: ‘Negotiations are ongoing and we are going to be optimistic. I hope he can stay – he has helped us a lot during the last six months.
‘He’s a decisive player with lots of assists and he has been excellent in many games. When he hasn’t played, we’ve missed him. He is a football player that I like and we’d like to stay, but we’ll have to see.’
Barcelona will finish a distant second to champions Real Madrid irrespective of the result of their final league fixture on Sunday at home to Villarreal, who are a point ahead of Athletic Bilbao in the race of Europa Conference League qualification.
Dembele has been offered a deal that will see him rake in more in the later years of his contract
‘It could be [Dembele’s] last game or maybe he can extend his contract,’ said Xavi. ‘It depends on the negotiations. [Villarreal] could be the last game for Ousmane and several other players.
‘The offer was presented [to Dembele] a long time ago and they have taken time to answer us. We cannot force anything because this depends on two parties.
‘I believe that he will stay but he is tempted by other options that he could believe are superior.’
Dembele has scored 32 goals in 149 appearances for Barca since signing from Borussia Dortmund for £96m in 2017, including two in 32 outings this season.
Barcelona will finish at least 10 points shy of LaLiga winners Real Madrid but Xaxi is optimistic
Reigning FIFA Men’s Player of the Year Robert Lewandowski could thrive on Dembele’s service next season if the Poland captain leaves Bundesliga champions Bayern a year before his contract ends.
Xavi said: ‘He’s one of the options, one of the possibilities. He’s said publicly that he wants to leave [Bayern].
‘There are negotiations, there are different clubs. He has one year of his contract left – it won’t be easy, but it’s one of the options, yes.’
A four-time Champions League winner with Barca, Xavi wants the club to be much more competitive in his first full campaign in charge but admits they have no chance of beating the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid to the signings of huge earners including Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe.
Frenkie de Jong is another player who Xavi hopes will help Barcelona to enjoy a brighter future
‘We cannot compete in that [financial] sense,’ Xavi accepted. ‘We wanted to be in the race for Haaland but we couldn’t, Mbappe as well.
‘The economic situation is what it is. You cannot look back. You have to stay strong, stay together and move forward.
‘We have to strengthen our squad so that we can compete next season for every title from the get-go.’
Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong is another player Xavi hopes will not be lured away.
‘He’s a great football player,’ he said. ‘I’ve told him he can make the difference and be part of an important era.
‘I really like Frenkie: he’s very capable, a player who dominates the game. He can help us but we’ll see what the situation is.’