The agent of Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele has said the club's director of football, Eric Abidal, is "very happy" with the player despite recent reports out of the Camp Nou relating to his attitude.
Moussa Sissoko represents the former Borussia Dortmund ace, who was reportedly left out of the squad for Sunday's 4-3 defeat to Real Betis for failing to properly report an illness and missing training on Thursday. However, Sissoko told RMC Sport (h/t Goal's Ante Jukic) Dembele still has a fan in Abidal:
"Ousmane continues to work. He is in a big club, he is in the national team and [France manager] Didier Deschamps continues to call him. He is very much demanding on the behaviour of the players and their performances, so if Ousmane is today in the French team, he deserves it.
"I also had Eric Abidal [Barcelona sporting director] on the phone and he is very happy with Ousmane, he told me he was training very well. He does not question him at all right now."
There is a sense that Dembele's admirers at the Camp Nou are getting fewer in number. Sport Witness cited an article from Sport, which said the club has even started leaking stories about his situation to the media, although to what end is unclear.
The 21-year-old was dropped by manager Ernesto Valverde for the loss to Betis on Sunday, but he also turned up late to the Camp Nou and was minutes behind returning to his seat for the second half, per AS:
Marca recently provided quotes from Barca director Guillermo Amor, who questioned Dembele's attitude and said after the loss to Betis: "All the professionals at Barcelona need to live like professionals, you have to fight in each training session and play where they tell them."
He has French company in Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet, but it appears figurehead Abidal—who made 193 appearances in six years with Barcelona—is the countryman offering support to the youngster.
He's not the only figure at the Camp Nou willing to give the player a chance in proving himself, as vice-captain Gerard Pique recently shared his view, per The Spanish Football Podcast:
Egos are not generally welcomed at the Camp Nou, where Barcelona have thrived on a team-based blueprint.
Sissoko said he didn't know why Dembele has received the recent criticism:
"All these criticisms make me laugh. It had already begun with a so-called delay at the meeting before the Champions League match against Inter (Milan).
"I am surprised very serious newspapers can report this information because Ousmane didn't arrive late. His coach has confirmed the fact he was not in the starting XI was not due to a delay."
The France international cost €105 million when he joined from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, and sports writer Andrew Gaffney illustrated what he saw as a sense of disappointment:
Andrew Gaffney @GaffneyVLC
I don’t believe there’s any anger towards Dembele from people at Barça but rather great disappointment and frustration. He’s an extremely talented player but quite naive. Plus sometimes being so laid back can be misinterpreted as being lazy. It’s up to him to show he wants this.
It was expected that Dembele would help solve the problem left by Neymar's departure for Paris Saint-Germain, but recent disruptions over his behaviour have led to speculation over his future in Catalonia.
Abidal appears to be one willing to give the youngster time to adapt, but his support will only get Dembele so far in realising his potential at Barca.