Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has urged Ousmane Dembele's critics to lay off him and give him time, insisting that it is only natural for him to make mistakes.
Goal understands that the Frenchman has asked to leave Barca having struggled to fully adapt to life at Camp Nou following his €105 million (£93m/$120m) switch from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.
Indeed, Dembele has been the subject of heavy criticism in recent times, with reports of a poor attitude and claims that he has missed training sessions.
But Rakitic has backed his team-mate and insisted that it was always going to be difficult for him after joining one of the top clubs in Europe.
He told Goal and Spox, in cooperation with DAZN, at an appointment with his sponsor adidas in Herzogenaurach: "It is not easy to come to the largest club in the world and the daily pressure that comes with it and having to endure that.
"You have to give him time. He has unbelievable qualities and I am sure that he will take the next step. You have to turn a blind eye to such a player [and allow him some mistakes sometimes].
"It is worth doing that for such players because they have a huge career ahead of them."
He said: "We are really looking forward to the Champions League. But we also know that we need the league title in Spain.
"The club has only won the Champions League after winning the league in the same season. Accordingly, we are reluctant to play a great season in the league [and forget about the Champions League as a result]. We have to join forces to do that."
Rakitic played alongside Andres Iniesta before the Barca legend decided to leave for a move to Japanese side Vissel Kobe in the summer, and while the Croatian was sad to see him go, he is confident they are able to cope without him.
The former Sevilla midfielder added: "Of course, it is different [without Iniesta]. Andres is unique, he has shaped our game for many years. Even as Xavi left, everyone wondered how to proceed without him. But then it went well.
"Just like now, without others. Of course, it would be nicer if both of them were still here and leading us. The most important thing is that they have left a homogeneous, ready team. We all learned so much from them.
"Andres was, for me, one of the most important colleagues that I met. He is also a good friend for me outside the pitch. So, it is a pity that he left. But we understand his move to Japan. I think we can do well without him. And I'm sure Andres enjoys [watching] our games."