Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele is believed to have rejected the club’s latest offer of a contract renewal, making it more likely he will leave Camp Nou as a free agent.
Dembele’s current contract is due to expire at the end of this season, which means he is also eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with a new club as of January, and he's recently been linked in the Spanish media with a move to Newcastle - now the richest club in the world.
Losing the 24-year-old Frenchman on a free transfer would be a huge blow to Barcelona, having initially signed him in a deal from Borussia Dortmund worth up to €145m, because they would get no return on that enormous investment.
Injuries throughout his time in Catalonia, including this season after undergoing knee surgery in the summer, have meant that Barcelona have also never seen the best of Dembele.
New coach Xavi has been hard on him, with reports that he fined the player earlier this month for being three minutes late for a training session – Dembele has a longstanding reputation for lateness.
But Xavi has also praised Dembele’s ability on the pitch, suggesting soon after taking over that he has the potential to be ‘the best in the world in his position’ if he stays injury free and works hard.
Xavi has also stated more than once that he wants Dembele to stay, recently describing his contract renewal as a ‘priority’ and just last Friday revealing a conversation he had with the player: “I made it clear to him how important he was for not only me this season, but for the future.”
However, Dembele’s vision may not line up with Xavi’s. SPORT report that he has rejected Barcelona’s latest offer of a contract because he wants to be released as a free agent.
The reason is that he has apparently had better offers from clubs outside Spain who could pay him much more than Barcelona can - their wage bill had to be slashed repeatedly because of ongoing financial concerns, leading to the departures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann among others over the summer.
A report from Mundo Deportivo even claims that Dembele has a £250,000-per-week contract waiting for him at Newcastle - who are bottom of the Premier League and winless in 13 outings - in addition to a £15m signing-on bonus.
Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have also been linked with Dembele in recent months, but are unlikely to put forward such a strong financial package.