Ousmane Dembele has made the sensational claim that he is being blackmailed at Barcelona.
The France international has been told he can leave the Catalan giants this month, 4-and-a-half years after they made him the second most expensive player of all time.
However, the 24-year old has come out swinging, claiming to be the victim of a smear campaign at Barça.
Dembele is into the final six months of his contract at the Camp Nou, with the club finally losing the rag over the impasse regarding a possible extension.
“Today, 20 January, with 11 days left in the last window before the end of his contract, it is obvious that the player does not want to continue and is not committed to our future," said Barcelona director of football, Mateu Alemany.
“In that scenario, he and his agents have been informed that he should leave immediately because we want players who are committed to our project. Therefore, we hope to transfer him before 31 January.
“We started conversations with Ousmane and his agents back in July, more or less. In all this time, these six or seven months, we have spoken, we have had dialogue, we have made various offers. We looked at ways that he could stay with us. All those offers were turned down by his agents. The fact that he is not in the squad is no more than a consequence of this whole process.
“The conclusion in sporting terms, as evaluated by the coaching staff, is that we don’t want players who are not committed. It’s not the club that takes this decision – the coach does – but he has all our support and we think it is an entirely coherent decision.”
Head coach Xavi has also indicated that he does not want Dembele hanging around if he has no intention of renewing his contract.
His Barcelona career never really ignited, following a €105million move from Borussia Dortmund in the same summer that Neymar left for Paris Saint-Germain.
The haphazard spending of that Neymar money helped lead Barcelona towards the financial mess that currently engulfs the club, and getting Dembele off their wage bill is a priority if they're to make new signings.
In a strong statement, however, Dembele says gossip about him has been "piling up for four years" with the sole intention of harming him.
The former Rennes winger said injuries and COVID-19 have had an adverse impact on his development, but he maintains that he remains fully at the disposal of Xavi while under contract.
Dembele added, "I have always given everything for my colleagues and also for all the partners, it is not now that that is going to change.
"I am not a man who cheats and even less a man who has a habit of giving in to blackmail."
Ousmane Dembele statement:
Good morning to everybody,
It's been four years since I've stopped reading things about myself without ever trying to justify myself.
Gossip about me has been piling up for four years. It been four years since people have spoken for me, shamefully lied with one sole purpose, to harm me. I have been on my line of never answering for four years, of not justifying myself. Has it been a mistake? Surely.
As of today it's over. From today I will answer honestly, without giving in to any kind of blackmail. I am 24 years old and like every man I have flaws, imperfections.
I have lived through complex moments, injuries, Covid has affected me.
Without the slightest training session, the coach has requested me and I have always complied without question. Perform as well as I have always done because it is my passion. I am fully aware of my luck to dedicate myself to the most beautiful job in the world.
Also, my message is transparent. I forbid anyone to give the impression that I am not involved in the sports project. I forbid anyone to attribute intentions to me that I have never had. I forbid anyone to speak for me or my representative, whom I fully trust.
Still under contract, I am fully involved and at the disposal of my club, my coach. I have always given everything for my colleagues and also for all the partners, it is not now that that is going to change. I am not a man who cheats and even less a man who has a habit of giving in to blackmail.
As you know there are negotiations. I let my agent handle it, it's his turf. My field is the ball, playing football, sharing moments of joy with my teammates and members. Above all, let's focus on winning.
Take care and take care of yours.