Ronald Koeman has insisted Ousmane Dembele remains a vital part of Barcelona’s plans amid claims Liverpool were planning a fresh bid to lure him to Anfield.
The France winger has consistently been linked with a move to the Premier League. Indeed, he was strongly tipped to joined Manchester United last summer, with the deal breaking down late on. United are being tipped to rekindle their interest this summer as they search for a top quality right winger. However, the strongest interest appears to be from Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp reportedly ready to try again to bring him to Anfield.
Dembele has struggled for fitness and consistency during his time at the Nou Camp. However, he’s enjoying his best season yet and on Monday night netted a vital late winner against Real Valladolid.
He has 10 goals and four assits this season from 38 games this season and is finally showing why Barca spent a huge €105m on him in 2017.
But finances are tight at Barcelona and his form has led to renewed speculation of interest from Liverpool.
Koeman though seems to be keen to retain Dembele’s services after underlining what he now means to Barcelona.
“He’s an important player,” Koeman said of the World Cup winner.
“He has shown that with his performance and goal and he gave us the three points.”
Koeman would not be drawn on speculation linking Dembele with Liverpool. However, he did have warm praise for his winger’s improvement.
“He’s had a very good season, he has improved a lot. Regularity has been the key for him.”
Koeman happy with Barcelona resolve
Koeman also praised Barcelona for their gritty performance, admitting they had to dig deep to pick up all three points.
“We lacked a lot in the first half,” Koeman stated.
“We didn’t press them very well. I saw a slow, tired Barcelona from the start.
“We didn’t control the game. So we changed the system and improved in the second half.
“It was a difficult game and we were some way off our level. Real Valladolid did a good job defensively, but you have to know how to suffer and I think we deserved to win.”
Despite the complications, the Dutchman was happy to see Barca win without being at their best.
“The guys showed that they are capable of winning,” Koeman said.
“You have to have freshness in the team. I didn’t see that and maybe it’s because of the internationals, but we’re capable of winning.
“At times you are lucky, and at others you’re unlucky. But the mentality of the team has to be highlighted because they didn’t stop looking for three points.
“We had a bit of luck at the end of the game. But I was calm, I was more worried in the first half because I saw a very different team compared to recent games. We improved in the second half and created chances. They showed they can win without playing well.”