The young France forward is expected to be sidelined for around four months after suffering a thigh injury against Getafe that has required surgery.
Everything appeared to be back on track. After all the problems suffered by Barcelona during a troublesome summer, including the departure of Neymar, the Spanish Supercopa loss to Real Madrid and issues at boardroom level, there was a new-found optimism after a strong start in La Liga and the Champions League.
As it turned out, however, another setback was just around the corner. Because on Saturday, summer signing Ousmane Dembele limped off with a thigh injury during Barca’s 2-1 win at Getafe and it has been confirmed that the young French forward will be out of action for up to four months.
Dembele departed in the 25th minute against Getafe and, after tests with the Catalan club, the 20-year-old flew to Finland for an operation which will take place on Tuesday. And on Monday, he was pictured arriving in a wheelchair.
It is bad news for Barcelona and on Saturday, coach Ernesto Valverde said: “He is going to be out for some time. It’s a shame because he was just getting into the dynamic of the team. Let’s hope he is not out for too long.”
However, his worst fears were subsequently confirmed and Dembele will be sidelined for between three and four months, missing at least 13 matches in La Liga (including the Clasico away to Real Madrid on December 23) and the Catalans’ remaining five group games in the Champions League (a trip to Juventus in late November among them).
Dembele could also be out for further fixtures in 2018, with Barca set to face Levante at home and Real Sociedad away (so often a difficult match for the Blaugrana) in the first half of January, with the two-legged last 16 of the Copa del Rey also set to take place between January 3 and 10.
It is not what Barcelona had in mind for a player who cost €105 million initially in a transfer that could rise to €150m with add-ons over time. Dembele was one of two targets to replace Neymar after the Brazilian moved to Paris Saint-Germain in early August, but ultimately only the France forward was brought in after a move for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho broke down and a late swoop for PSG’s Angel Di Maria also failed.
Lionel Messi had looked all alone in attack in the Supercopa series against Madrid and the arrival of another forward assumed added importance following that double defeat to the Catalans’ fierce rivals.
In the end, Barca spent much more than they had wanted to bring in a player who had moved from Rennes to Dortmund for just €15m in 2016. In a market inflated by Neymar’s €222m move to PSG, however, they were left with little option.
Nevertheless, the club were happy with their new players and Dembele excited fans on his debut as he set up a goal for Luis Suarez after coming off the bench in the 5-0 Catalan derby win against Espanyol, while he showed more flashes of his potential in the 3-0 victory over Juventus last Tuesday.
This injury means Barca are back to where they started, though, and with no Coutinho or Di Maria to come in, Valverde will have to hope Gerard Deulofeu, Paulinho, Denis Suarez and others can step up in Dembele’s absence. It was hardly what they had in mind from their €150m outlay last month.