Want-away winger Ousmane Dembele’s bid to force Borussia Dortmund to sell him to Barcelona by going on strike damages the German club, according to key figures.
Dortmund suspended the 20-year-old indefinitely for skipping training last week after they rejected a bid from Barcelona, who view the young France international as a possible replacement for Neymar.
Dortmund have rejected claims by Barcelona’s general manager Pep Segura that they are “close” to signing Dembele, with Spanish media reporting an offer of 80 million euros ($94m), plus 40 million euros in bonuses.
With Dembele missing, Dortmund will play their first game of the 2017/18 Bundesliga season on Saturday at Wolfsburg and new coach Peter Bosz admits it is hard to “blend-out” the ongoing transfer saga.
Should Dembele eventually return to training, “you can assume we would tell him in no uncertain terms that his behaviour is not on and is damaging to the team”, Dortmund midfielder Gonzalo Castro told Bild.
The German daily also report that Dembele has packed up and quit his rented house — owned by current Liverpool and ex-Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp — having already returned to France.
Castro is the latest Dortmund star to criticise Dembele after defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos said the Frenchman “can’t just do what he wants”.
Ex-Dortmund player and coach Matthias Sammer said Dembele’s behaviour threatens the fabric of the club.
“I am concerned about what is happening at Dortmund,” Sammer told daily die Welt.
“The great strength of the club — the family, the feeling of belonging together, the charisma — is in danger.
“I can’t understand anyone who doesn’t come to training. This case is a new dimension.”
However, Castro says he has some sympathy for Dembele.
“One must not forget, he is only 20 years old and we don’t know who is behind his behaviour or who is advising him,” said the 30-year-old Castro, a German international.
“I know from my own experience that I could not decide everything for myself at the age of 20.
“But it’s also clear that there are employment contracts and the club must come first.”
Dembele’s decision to strike has irked his team-mates.