KEY POINTS

  • Xavi wants to renew Dembele's contract
  • Dembele's current deal is due to end in 2022
  • Xavi has replaced Koeman as Barcelona's head coach

FC Barcelona’s new manager Xavi Hernandez hailed Ousmane Dembele, saying the winger can be “the best” in the world in his position. 

Former Barcelona captain Xavi, who replaced Ronald Koeman as Barcelona’s head coach, was officially welcomed back to Camp Nou Monday. Close to 10,000 fans were in the stadium to witness a new chapter in history as the iconic club opened. 

One of the major topics that Xavi discussed in his first-ever press conference as Barcelona’s head coach was Dembele’s contract situation. Barcelona paid a hefty fee of $131 million to sign Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017. However, the Frenchman has since struggled to justify the price, mainly because of his injuries that have dominated his Barca career so far.

However, Dembele is still just 24 and former Al-Sadd boss Xavi believes the player is still able of big things and wants to help him rediscover his form. The France national’s current deal with Barcelona is due to expire in the summer of 2022 and he has not signed an extension yet.

"For me, Dembele, he can be the best player in the world in his position. But you have to work with him and demand it. It depends on him, on his mentality, that he is free from injury, that he has high-performance levels. His renewal is a priority for me," Xavi was quoted by Goal, as saying in the press conference. 

It was earlier reported that following the departures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona wanted to offer a new deal to Dembele, who has already suffered two injuries in the 2021-22 season.

Dembele, who made his first appearance of the ongoing campaign in Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Nov. 2, missed 14 games due to a knee injury. Unfortunately for the Catalans, Dembele sustained a hamstring injury during a training session and is expected to be out of action for three to four weeks, according to Spanish publication Diario AS

Xavi’s first game in charge will be after the underway international break. After a disappointing 3-3 draw with Celta Vigo, Barcelona will return to La Liga at home on Nov. 20 as they host Espanyol. Three days later, Xavi has a major test as his side takes on Benfica in a must-win Champions League group game.

Newly-appointed Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez (right) alongside club president Joan Laporta at Camp Nou on Monday. Newly-appointed Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez (right) alongside club president Joan Laporta at Camp Nou on Monday. Photo: AFP / LLUIS GENE

"'This is not goodbye. This is see you later', said Xavi Hernández on the day of his farewell as an FC Barcelona player. Six and a half years later, at 1.39pm CET on 8 November 2021, Xavi held true to his word as he stepped out onto the Camp Nou pitch to once again greet the fans,” Barcelona said in an official release Monday.