The absence of Ousmane Dembele from FC Barcelona's squad list for the match against Real Betis was the main topic of discussion for Ernesto Valverde's press conference today. The coach didn't want to create any more drama than already exists and views the player as a key member of the squad going forward.
Firstly, Valverde made it clear that Dembele wasn't being punished for missing a training session on Thursday due to a stomach bug. "Everyone is free to interept it however they want, that's their choice. We're a team. Sometimes I select this player, other times I don't. I do what's best for the team and the club. Sometimes you're in the starting line up and tomorrow you aren't."
When Valverde was quizzed about the feeling on Dembele in the dressing room and his behaviour, the coach was equally diplomatic. "I'm not going to talk about internal matters. I make a decision on the sporting side of things as to what would help us for the match tomorrow: the fitness of the group, the team and individually. The rest is another matter. We want to help all our players become better. We have to help everyone: Messi, Suarez, Dembele, Umtiti.. everyone."
The questions about Dembele didn't stop there despite Valverde wanting to focus on those he did name in his squad rather than those he didn't. "Ousmane has been selected a lot of times and we want him to show his talent. The club made a huge investment in him and we want him to see the benefit of that. We all need to learn, every single player. We're a team and we must keep going forward."
valverde still believes in dembele
The coach doesn't feel Dembele's price tag should mean he's judged differently to anybody else. "The players are valued by what they do on the pitch. For the talent they have and the dedication they show. Once a player has reached the first team, regardless of what he cost, we want that person to be involved in the dynamic of the team. We want them to play and give everything they have."
And in the last question regarding the Frenchman, Valverde said this: "His best version is being a player that can impact our team in a positive light or on the opposition's team in a negative way, to hurt them. We will help the players in this way. The decision belongs to me. Sometimes I think it's better to do it one way and other times a different way. Dembele is incredibly talented and the only thing we want is for him to show they every day."