The last thing that Barcelona needed was confirmation that Ousmane Dembele was ruled out of action for the next six months.
On the cusp of a return after being out since before Christmas, the Frenchman broke down once again, and this time the injury has turned out to be worse than first feared.
Not only will he miss the rest of this season, but also the European Championship and 2020/21′s pre-season.If that weren’t enough, the recent revelations from Barca’s former vice president, Jordi Mestre, could prove to be the death knell for Dembele’s blaugrana career.
Talking to Spanish media about whether Leo Messi would be renewing his contract, he inadvertently let slip that the club captain had asked president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, directly for the purchase of Neymar.
That flies in the face of what Messi himself has said on more than one occasion. That being that he doesn’t ask for players and has no influence over which ones are signed by the club.
It’s long been contended by Bartomeu that the club tried everything to get the player back, but he remains at PSG for now.
With Lautaro Martinez, Messi’s international team-mate, targeted for this coming summer, and costing well over €100m, it’s hard to believe that the Catalans will have the money to go back in for Neymar in any event.
The Brazilian will be available for €180m but in order to afford that fee as well as his wages, then Dembele would be one of a handful of players that would need to be sold in order for funds to be recouped.
The one thing that Dembele does have in his favour is that, when fit, he offers something completely different to Neymar or anyone else. Genuine pace.
If there’s one thing that defenders can’t stand, it’s when attacking players come at them. Unable to scythe them down for fear of earning a card, if they’re rocked back on their heels, there’s simply no catching players like Dembele.
Neymar has impeccable skill and his ‘razzmatazz’ sells, but for this team moving forward, one has to question whether he would be as good a fit as Dembele.
If the conclusion is that he isn’t, will Messi flirt with not signing a new contract and look to put pressure on the club in that respect? After all, he can leave for nothing at the end of this, or next, season, and Barca don’t really want to call his bluff.