Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde will be patient with Ousmane Dembele as the winger looks to rediscover his form following a month out injured.
Dembele’s Barca career has been stop-start since joining from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in August 2017.
He was limited to only 24 appearances in all competitions in his first season due to injuries, and although he has managed to play 38 times this term, he has still suffered on the fitness front.
A sprained ankle saw him miss a couple of weeks of action in January and February before a hamstring tear in March ruled him out for a month.
He made his return when starting the 0-0 draw with Huesca on April 13 and lined up against Real Sociedad on Saturday. While his performances were hardly memorable, Valverde is not getting on his back.
“He played his second league game since his return the other day and he’s still getting up to pace,” Valverde told a news conference ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Deportivo Alaves.
“He’s not exactly the same as before his injury. You have to go through games before finding your place. We’ll see.
“He definitely offers us speed and if other teams play high he’s great on the counter. We can exploit that. He’s very good in one-on-ones as well.”
Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have come in for criticism during their short Barca careers and Valverde insisted every player has to earn their spot in the line-up.
“Everything is always equal between every player, no one is ahead of anyone,” Valverde said.
“Sometimes one player plays, then others play. It’s normal at every club, not just Barca. Every player has to find their place, their form and play well.
“They are two great players and sometimes one plays, sometimes both do.”
One player Valverde is certainly happy with, however, is Arthur, with the Brazilian midfielder making a seamless transition into a key player having only joined from Gremio at the start of the season.
“He’s a player who has some characteristics that fit well with the team,” the coach added. “Maybe he would’ve had more difficulties in other teams.
“He’s done very well here. He came from playing too many games, had a long-term injury last season, then playing in the national team.
“His career has taken a turn here and we hope for even more from him.”