Ousmane Dembele’s future at Barcelona is once more in question.
The World Cup winner was left out of the Spanish champion’s lineup for Wednesday night’s Champions League win over Inter Milan.
Despite being without Lionel Messi due to a fractured arm, Barcelona saw off Inter 2-0 at Camp Nou, thanks to goals from Rafinha and Jordi Alba.
But conspicuous by his absence was £105million winger Dembele, who remained on the substitutes bench throughout.
The former Borussia Dortmund youngster started the season impressively, scoring five goals in his first six games.
But he lost his place in the middle of Barca’s four-match winless run in La Liga, with head coach Ernesto Valverde bringing Arthur into midfield and pushing Philippe Coutinho into attack.
Dembele replaced Messi after the Argentine picked up his injury against Sevilla in the weekend’s 4-2 win over Sevilla, and had been expected to start against Inter.
But Valverde sprung a major surprise by selecting Rafinha – bombed out on loan to Inter last season and only returning because the Italian club elected not to take up their option – to replace Messi in the starting XI.
Rafinha repaid the faith of his coach with the opening goal in an industrious performance and there are suggestions that his starting spot owes much to Barcelona’s captain and Luis Suarez.
According to Don Balon, the strike duo implored Valverde to select Rafinha ahead of the Frenchman – and he duly did.
It’s claimed that Dembele has drawn the ire of the pair, and other teammates, with his attitude and by being late for training on a number of occasions; Dembele has also stopped studying Spanish, and thus is only close to the squad’s French-speaking contingent.
Dembele, who struggled with injuries last term, had looked to have turned the corner in the early part of the season, but is now on the outside looking in once more.
There are also claims that he isn’t taking his career seriously enough – continuing to eat fast food and partying regularly – and hasn’t brought into the club’s desire to win the Champions League this year.
Dembele was heavily-linked with a move away from Catalunya last summer before staying put; Arsenal, where Sven Mislintat, who took Dembele to Dortmund, is now heading up transfer strategy and remains a big supporter, have been monitoring his situation.
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