The La Liga giants had hoped to get a French striker off their books on January deadline day, but he continues to exhaust his contract at the Camp Nou.
Ousmane Dembele saw the January transfer window close without signing a new contract at Barcelona or sealing a move elsewhere, and club president Joan Laporta believes the Frenchman has a free transfer deal lined up.
A World Cup-winning striker had plenty of suitors approaching the winter signing deadline, and the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Chelsea were reported to have been keeping a close eye on him.
However, no sale was sanctioned, and with offers of new terms rejected, Barca are now forced to keep an unliquidated and unwanted asset on their books until the summer.
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What has been said?
Offering his take on a long-running saga that seems destined to put Dembélé in a free-agent pool, Laporta told reporters: “We offered him the renewal, with a very good offer. Later it turned out that it was an economic issue, that he wanted more.
“We told him that he wanted to renew, but the issue got stuck. The agent took a position of not saying anything and that has consequences. We have done our best.
“We presented him with two proposals and they were good. We are very surprised that he did not accept. The last one was from an English club and he didn’t want to leave, he preferred to stay here for six months.
“It’s not good for him or for the club, because his renewal gave us salary margin and we wouldn’t have had to work until the last minute.
“The whole Dembélé thing is difficult to understand. Xavi is working and has to think about the next season. We believe that he has an agreement with another club. That’s what his agent has hinted to us. We will act for the good of the club”.
Any other business?
After reflecting on the disappointment of not closing any deal with Dembélé, Laporta confirmed that Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s move was completed with “one minute for the market to close” and that the Gabon international should be officially unveiled. “at the end of the week”.
The Barça chief executive, along with economic vice president Eduard Romeu, also gave journalists an insight into the ongoing efforts of everyone at the Camp Nou to clean up the financial mess left by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
“We have detected very dubious operations. All of them have been investigated. An agency investigated and found unjustified and disproportionate payments,” Laporta said.
“What we don’t want is to be complicit in those actions that led Barça to a complicated situation. We have inherited an economic situation with astronomical debts and great losses.
“We show it because the Socios (club members) have the right to know what the previous board of directors did when they ran the club. We filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office. We are here to explain more in detail.”
Romeu added: “When we arrived, we quickly discovered that we had no money and a lot of debt. There was not even money to pay salaries. In two years, Barça lost more than 600 million euros (501 million pounds / 676 million dollars) and only 135 million euros (113 million pounds / 152 million dollars) of which correspond to Covic-19.
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“The salary mass is fundamental. We were 40% ahead of our competitors and that was a completely unsustainable situation. To date, we have already saved €159m (£133m/$179m) from the club’s salary bill.
“The objective is to put the club in the best situation in the next two years and we are convinced of reversing the situation in which we find ourselves”.