A new layer to the debacle surrounding Barcelona and contract rebel Ousmane Dembélé has unfolded with suggestions Chelsea are the 24-year-old’s most likely destination.
Negotiations appear set to run on until the summer, upon the player’s contract expiry amid comments from his manager heaping praise on the wantaway winger.
The Catalan club were embroiled in a public dispute with the Frenchman during the January window following an attempt to force him out and then dismissing the idea of a new deal.
Ultimately, Dembélé was forced to stay put, in large part due to a lack of concrete links elsewhere, amidst accusations bringing his professionalism into question.
Such were the misconceptions, the player responded directly via his social media channels protesting:
"“From today it finishes, from today I am going to reply honestly, without giving in to any kind of blackmail.”"
"“I forbid anyone from thinking I am not committed to the sporting project. I forbid anyone from attributing intentions to me that I have never had.”"
Following the conclusion of the transfer window and as his side turned their attention to burdening expectations both domestically and in Europe, Barcelona boss Xavi has offered a glowing account of the former Dortmund man.
"“Ousmane’s contract is up in June and it’s a matter that’s between the club and him. I see him as being happy. He’s acting like a true professional. I’m very happy with him."
"“Even when he knew he wasn’t in the squad, he’s been a model professional. I haven’t had the slightest problem with Ousmane."
"“I’ve heard all sorts of things: that he hasn’t been professional and that he hasn’t looked after himself. I can tell you now that it’s the complete opposite, he’s looking after himself, is professional, has been training well, and is positive in and around the group."
"“That’s why we – and I want to stress that it’s not just me but the club too – have decided that he’s able to play with the team. Had he been a bad professional, we may have decided on something else, but he’s been a true professional and a role model in terms of the way he’s carried himself within the group, and that’s ultimately what matters."
"“We’ll have to see what happens between now and the end of the season. It’s down to the club and it’s down to him. He’s an important player and one I like.”"
Where does Chelsea come into this?
Although his manager’s comments act as a plea for Dembélé to commit his future to Catalunya, the train of thought remains that he will seek pastures new.
According to sport.es, Chelsea have held talks with the attacker after they ‘decided to go with everything’ to secure his signature.
The same article suggests Barcelona have all but given up on the idea of him staying with claims that they are ‘betting on Chelsea’ to be their former record signing’s probable suitor.
In regard to the West London side, and whether the aforementioned is a required addition, the focus of their difficulties this season would indicate so.
Since signing Romelu Lukaku in the summer, manager Thomas Tuchel has struggled to ascertain the perfect combination of his preferred attacking treble, which includes a lone striker and two wingers on either side.
Answering questions surrounding Dembélé’s suitability to the Blues’ system; hypothetically speaking, it should be an ideal match.