BARCELONA (Reuters) - After a week in which Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele failed to show for training and the spotlight on his apparent lack of discipline increased further, team mate Gerard Pique said it was time to teach the Frenchman that football is a 24-hour job.
Dembele was not included in the squad for Barca’s 4-3 defeat at home to Real Betis on Sunday after not turning up to training on Thursday and, according to local media, not informing the club of his whereabouts for 90 minutes.
“We were also young and we have also committed mistakes,” Pique told reporters after the match on Sunday.
“From experience, we have to help him to understand that football is a 24-hour job and he has to live accordingly. I’m convinced that he’s going to improve in this respect and that decisions like the one the coach took will help him.”
The 21-year-old France forward 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.
“We are here to help him, he’s very young and he has a lot of room for improvement and a lot of talent,” Pique added of Dembele.
“He’s just like any other player in the squad and today the coach decided not to include him in the squad. I’m sure he did it so he can improve in certain aspects.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ian Chadband