Barcelona Chief Questions Ousmane Dembele Professionalism After Betis Absence

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 12, 2018

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 06: Ousmane Dembele of FC Barcelona reacts during the Group B match of the UEFA Champions League between FC Internazionale and FC Barcelona at San Siro Stadium on November 6, 2018 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Lukasz Laskowski/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)
PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Barcelona director Guillermo Amor has suggested winger Ousmane Dembele is not displaying the right attitude at the Camp Nou after he was dropped for Sunday's 4-3 home defeat to Real Betis.

Marca reported Dembele was left out by manager Ernesto Valverde after he had informed the club too late on Thursday that he was too ill to attend training.

When asked about the Dembele situation afterward, Amor replied: "All the professionals at Barcelona need to live like professionals, you have to fight in each training session and play where they tell them."

Dembele arrived at the Camp Nou just five minutes before kick-off, and Sport Witness added he was late returning for the second period of Barca's first home league defeat since September 2016.

Lionel Messi scored twice on his return from injury but could not prevent Barca from losing for a second time this season as Dembele watched from the stands.

The 21-year-old's tardiness is another unwelcome distraction for the club, and although his talent is not in doubt, Barca have demonstrated their unwillingness to entertain those who won't abide by club policy.

The Spanish Football Podcast showed how recent developments have been treated by the Catalan press, and that was before Sunday's late arrival for the loss to Betis:

The Spanish Football Podcast @tsf_podcast

"Dembélío" (lío = trouble, a mess) BOTH Barcelona papers go with the same headline after Ousmane Dembélé missed training on Thursday and it took the club an hour and a half to find him... https://t.co/kEm4GfqeQM

Dembele's "latest eccentricity," as Sport (h/t Sport Witness) reported, saw him bring forward his return to France for the international break.

He was expected to fly back and join up with Didier Deschamps' national team for the international break this week but contacted the private jet company himself and returned after the defeat to Betis on Sunday.

The wing whiz arrived at the Camp Nou from Borussia Dortmund for €105 million, and part of the risk in paying such an extravagant fee for a youngster is that discipline isn't as safe a guarantee as quality on the pitch.

A La Liga winner in his first season at the club, Dembele still has a long way to go before he can afford to get complacent, and sports writer Muhammad Butt debated whether an early exit is in the offing:

Muhammad Butt @muhammadbutt

mistakes on the pitch are one thing, they can be overcome, but if Dembélé is as relentlessly unprofessional as it seems (and I take these reports with a few grains of salt) then he won’t be long for a club like Barça.

It was in August 2017, when Barca were raising interest in the France international, that Dembele missed Dortmund training in an attempt to force through his move, and he eventually got his way.

Valverde spoke to the media ahead of Sunday's match with Betis and addressed the topic of Dembele following the manner in which he failed to inform the club of his absence from training Thursday:

"No [there is no punishment], everyone can interpret it as they see fit. This is a team. I try to do my best for my team and for my club.

"The internal issues are internal. What I do is make sporting evaluations about what can be good for us and the rest is another question. We want to help players to be better and we want to help everyone.

"Sometimes he's going to play, sometimes he won't, but he's got a learning curve, I do too. We're a team; we press forward.

"We are talking a lot about those who are not [in the squad] and we have to talk about those who are.

"What we expect is that the team and the club, which has made a large investment with him, take advantage of his talent."

Barcelona vice-captain Gerard Pique came out in support of his young team-mate, per ESPN's Sam Marsden:

Samuel Marsden @samuelmarsden

Pique on Dembele: "He has a lot of talent and a lot of room to improve. We're here to help him. We've all been young like him; we've all made mistakes like him. Football's 24 hours -- you have to live it from the first minute until the last."

The question marks over Dembele's future could give new opportunity to summer signing Malcom, the right winger who has seldom been used by Valverde thus far and could get an easier sight at the team in future.

Table leaders Barcelona head into the international break on the back of their first home defeat this campaign. They face a difficult test to return to winning ways on Saturday, Nov. 24, when they travel to the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid, one of three teams tied for second just one point below them.