Dembele will play when we need him, says Xavi as Barcelona winger could make first Camp Nou start since transfer saga

Ousmane Dembele Barcelona Atletico Madrid 2021-22Getty Images

Xavi says Ousmane Dembele could be in line for his first start at Camp Nou since the end of a turbulent January transfer saga, when Barcelona face Napoli in the Europa League.

Dembele made his first appearance for Barca in more than a month when he came off the bench during the 2-2 draw away at Espanyol on Sunday.

The 24-year-old was frozen out in the winter transfer window as the Blaugrana tried to find him a move, but he ultimately decided to see out his contract through to June.

What has been said?

Xavi hinted Dembele could make his starting XI for Napoli's visit to Camp Nou for the first leg of their Europa League tie.

"We don't rule out that he can play at home or away," the Barca boss told his pre-match press conference. "Whether he plays or not depends only on how the players train and who is better or worse. He can play.

"He already did it against Espanyol and he helped us a lot for 20 minutes."

Xavi still thinks Dembele can have an important role to play heading into the business end of the season as his team chases a top-four finish in La Liga as well as European silverware.

"He is going to help us for sure until the end of the season because he is a great player," he added. "He is one of the squad and he will play when we need him and when we believe he can help us compete and win."

Dembele's future up in the air

Barca president Joan Laporta has said the club started looking for suitors for Dembele after he rejected their offer of a contract extension.

Laporta also revealed that Dembele received two offers to leave in the winter market amid reported interest from the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

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“We had made a good offer for him to renew his contract and stay, but it became a financial issue and he wanted more,” the Barca chief told reporters at the start of the month.

"We showed him two good offers for him to play with another club during these last six months, the last one from an English club, and he didn’t accept them and preferred to stay here. We were surprised. It’s hard to understand."

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