By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona’s struggling French forward Ousmane Dembele should follow the example of his more experienced club mates to work his way back into the team, striker Luis Suarez said on Monday.
Dembele was left out of the squad for Barca’s 4-3 defeat by Real Betis last Sunday after failing to turn up to training three days earlier and, according to Spanish media reports, failing to inform the club of his whereabouts for 90 minutes.
The 21-year-old France international has struggled to fully adapt at Barca since signing from Borussia Dortmund in August 2017 for a then club record fee of 105 million euros ($119.01 million) with a view to filling the void left by Neymar.
His playing time has been limited by a series of hamstring injuries and he has also fallen foul of the club’s disciplinary code, including turning up late for a team meeting before a Champions League game at home to Inter Milan in October as well as his recent no-show for training.
Speaking before Uruguay’s international friendly with France in Paris on Tuesday, Suarez said Dembele did not have a bad relationship with his fellow Barca players but he challenged his team mate to get his head down and concentrate more.
“Perhaps he needs to focus more and be a little more responsible in some areas. He’s very young and he can look up to the more experienced players that surround him,” Suarez said.
“But he still deserves to be in the team. It’s not the case that he hasn’t adapted to the dressing room. The relationship he has with his team mates is good, he’s happy, but some of us have told him and he knows that it’s a privilege to be where we are.”
Last week, Barca defender Gerard Pique said he and the club’s other senior players needed “to help Dembele to understand that football is a 24-hour job and he has to live accordingly”.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Ken Ferris)