Ronald Koeman has insisted that Manchester United-linked winger Ousmane Dembele is an "important player" for Barcelona and he "would like him to stay" at Camp Nou.
Dembele was touted for a move away from Barca last summer amid reported interest from United, but has since managed to put his injury troubles behind him and become a key member of Koeman's squad.
Although the Red Devils have been tipped to reignite their pursuit of the France international when the transfer window reopens, Koeman has no plans to sanction his departure having seen his "quality" shine through after an extended run of games.
What's been said?
Speaking after his team's crucial 1-0 La Liga victory over Real Valladolid on Monday, which saw Dembele grab a dramatic late winner, Koeman told reporters: "He's an important player.
"He's shown that with his performance here and above all with the goal that gave us three points. Ousmane's development this season has been really good.
"Physically, he's improved a lot; I think that's been the key to his quality and consistency to play so many games. So, yes, if it's up to me, I would like him to stay with us."
Dembele keeps Barca's title hopes alive
Atletico Madrid gifted their rivals the chance to close the gap at the top of the Liga standings after losing to Sevilla at the weekend.
Real Madrid moved to within three points of their neighbours by beating Eibar, and Barca are now only a point behind Diego Simeone's men following their win against Valladolid.
However, Koeman's team were far from convincing during their first outing after the international break, with Dembele asked to lead the line alongside Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.
Both teams hit the woodwork in the first half but chances were at a premium before Oscar Plano was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Dembele with 11 minutes left to play.
The 23-year-old picked himself to fire home the only goal of the game in stoppage time, volleying into the net after latching onto Ronald Araujo's flick-on.
Dembele's record at Barca
Barca seriously considered cutting their losses on Dembele last year, due to the fact the World Cup winner had largely failed to live up to his £122 million ($169m) price tag following his 2017 switch from Borussia Dortmund.
A string of serious injuries served to limit his contribution, but his overall record for the Blaugrana makes for far more impressive reading after his exploits in the 2020-21 campaign.
Dembele has hit 29 goals in 100 games for the club to date, including 10 this season, and has also laid on 20 assists for his team-mates.
The former Dortmund star is approaching the final year of his contract, but it is now being reported that Barca will prioritise tying him down to fresh terms in order to ward off potential suitors such as United.