Xavi believes Ousmane Dembele can still be a useful player for Barcelona for the remainder of the season, despite the winger’s refusal to agree a new deal.
Barca insisted last month that Dembele would be sold before the transfer window’s deadline after the 24-year-old turned down the club’s latest contract offer.
Dembele, signed from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in 2017 following Neymar’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain, has struggled with injuries since his move to Camp Nou.
He has played just six times in LaLiga this season and in just over half of Barca’s league games since his arrival four-and-a-half years ago.
Dembele has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes. That puts him on a par with Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial among wingers from Europe’s top five leagues, and just behind Liverpool star Sadio Mane (0.64).
In his sole season at Dortmund, Dembele created 100 chances in all competitions, scoring 10 goals.
Xavi made it clear upon his arrival as coach last year that he saw Dembele as a key player for the future of the club, but the France international is now into the last five months of his deal.
PSG seemed set to sign him late in the January window, but that move did not go ahead, while there is also rumoured interest from the Premier League.
However, Barca and Dembele have now decided to put their differences to one side and Xavi insisted it would be a foolish move to omit him from the squad.
“Well, we haven’t found a solution for Dembele,” he told a news conference ahead of Sunday’s clash with reigning LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid, for which Dembele was included in the squad alongside new arrivals Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
“The situation is as it was a month ago, he hasn’t signed a contract. We had a meeting with the president. We have all met and we have decided that he is part of the squad. We cannot shoot ourselves in the foot.
“He’s a player for Barca. We have to use him, he can help us, he has been a good professional when he has been involved or not, so that’s the club’s decision. We will use him. I think he can be useful, he’s part of the team.”
Asked if he is concerned about the reaction of the fans to Dembele, Xavi said: “I understand the fans if they are hurt, but we have to close ranks for the good of the team. He is training well.
“He is a club player and his commitment is clear. His commitment is impeccable.”
Another Barca player in talks over a renewal is centre-back Ronald Araujo, and Xavi is eager to tie the 22-year-old down.
“Yes, it is a priority. It is a reality and it gives us a lot,” he said. “A very popular person in the locker room. It is a priority operation.”
Xavi also confirmed that both Traore, re-signed on loan from Wolves, and Aubameyang, who has joined essentially as a free agent after cutting ties with Arsenal, are in contention to face Atleti.
“Both of them have trained well. Probably Adama is in a better shape. Auba has had COVID-19, so he was working individually [before leaving Arsenal], so we will decide,” Xavi said.
“They are excited and we also want to see them in the squad. Two great signings.
“We have reinforced ourselves well and let’s see how far we get. There is a good atmosphere and a good group.”