Ousmane Dembele speculation gathers pace despite Barcelona sale refusal

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Speculation linking Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele with a move to Liverpool has intensified, with an interesting loan switch mooted.

The 20-year-old was touted with a switch to Anfield along with Lyon sibling pair Nabil and Yassin Fekir on Sunday, with the latter duo said to be lined up in a £62 million deal.

Speaking after the Reds’ 1-0 defeat to Chelsea that day, Jurgen Klopp laughed off claims, but did jokingly concede interest in Dembele, who he has previously pursued.

Dembele has struggled for game time at Barcelona this season due to injury, having left Borussia Dortmund for an initial £96.8 million last summer, making just 21 appearances in all competitions.

He has still tallied two goals and eight assists in those outings, averaging a direct contribution every 102 minutes, and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu is adamant he won’t be sold.

“The option of selling him is not on the table. We are finishing the season and then there will be meetings,” he told Catalan outlet RAC 1.

“He’s an investment for the future. He is very young and we expect a lot from him.”

But now the reliable Mohamed Bouhafi, speaking to SFR Sport on Monday evening, claims Liverpool are interested in signing Dembele on loan.

This would include an option to buy, which adds doubt to this suggestion, as there is rationale behind Bartomeu’s statement in that it is unlikely Barcelona would give up on Dembele so soon.

PARIS, FRANCE - Tuesday, June 13, 2017: France's Ousmane Dembélé in action against England during an international friendly match at the Stade de France. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Bouhafi’s claims are concrete, however, the prospect of Liverpool signing both Fekir and Dembele, albeit on loan, is an attractive one.

Though Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are firmly established as Klopp’s first-choice trio in attack, the Reds have sorely lacked any reliable backup this season.

The likes of Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke have struggled, while Philippe Coutinho was sold to Barcelona in January and Divock Origi, Lazar Markovic, Harry Wilson, Sheyi Ojo and Ryan Kent are all away on loan.

A recent season-ending injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a lack of opportunities for Ben Woodburn further underlines the need to add depth to the forward line this summer.

Dembele would be an excellent option in that regard, though whether Klopp can convince a player who commanded such a significant fee less than 12 months ago to take up a rotational role is unclear.

Much will no doubt hinge on Liverpool’s fortunes between now and the end of May, with the manager admitting last week that securing Champions League football is key to signing “specific players.”

The transfer window opens in England on May 17, though the Reds are unlikely to conduct major business until after the Champions League final on May 26.

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