Barcelona Coach Ernesto Valverde Defends Ousmane Dembele Against Media 'Cruelty'

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2018

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the group B Champions League soccer match between FC Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has spoken in favour of young winger Ousmane Dembele, defending him against possible "cruelty" from the media and saying he's a part of his squad.

The tactician faced multiple questions regarding the Frenchman during a press conference and told the reporters their focus on the youngster is excessive, per Sport:

"He's a part of the squad and we are all here to help him be at his best. I know they're talking about him excessively at the moment [in media].

"In the end, a player with something that is difficult to find, an innate talent, technical and physical, so we expect the best from him. Of course he's under pressure, but we all are.

"I don't know [if coverage has been too cruel to him] because I haven't seen too much ... but that's two questions already of what will be five or six about him, so I suppose maybe there has been some cruelty shown towards him."

He wasn't the only one sticking up for Dembele, with Malcom also backing the 21-year-old:

SPORT English @Sport_EN

Malcom: We are supporting Ousmane Dembele https://t.co/FGZomy8Y1P

The Catalan press has reserved plenty of criticism for Dembele this season, evidenced by the questions Valverde faced.

Some of that criticism has undoubtedly been justified, as Dembele has caused the club plenty of headaches:

B/R Football @brfootball

—Talent without effort —More interested in PlayStation than football —Not respected in the dressing room —Not Kylian Mbappe What’s wrong with Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona? https://t.co/7LQt4OIli5 | @Richard_Fitz https://t.co/xibiMzWdys

Mundo Deportivo (h/t Sport Witness' Naveen Ullal) previously suggested Valverde was fed up with the France international and had "lost confidence" in him, making his strong defence of Dembele in the press conference stand out.

Valverde didn't use the Frenchman much while Lionel Messi was out with an injury, opting for Rafinha in the starting XI in matches against Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano. Dembele scored against Vallecano off the bench and did start the Champions League fixture against Inter Milan, however.

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

The 2018 World Cup winner has flashed his talent on numerous occasions for the Catalans, but consistency has been a major issue. As Neymar's replacement, big things were expected from Dembele, and so far he has failed to live up to the hype.

Barcelona spent big on bringing him in and are unlikely to give up on his talent already unless they believe his lack of effort is a problem that can't be overcome. At just 21 years of age, he still has ample room for growth, including mentally.

It's no wonder to see Valverde stick up for him, and perhaps the defence from his coach will be the push Dembele needs.