Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembélé must leave the club before the January transfer window closes for both his sake as well as the Catalan club to ensure they get a fee as his contract ends in June, club director Mateu Alemany has said.
Dembélé, who joined Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, has failed to deliver on his potential that made the Spanish club pay $119.11 million for his services, scoring only 31 goals in 129 appearances.
Barcelona, who have debts of more than $1.53 billion, risk losing him for free at the end of the season if he does not renew his contract and coach Xavi Hernández has also said they will look to move him on if that is the case.
Alemany said the club has already told Dembélé he "needs to leave immediately."
"The reality is that we began negotiations with his agents five months ago. During this time there has been continuous communication in which the club's position has been to want him to continue," Alemany told Barça TV.
"Different offers have been made to him, we worked really hard and put a lot of effort, we have done enough for the player to consider what he has to do with his future. We are 11 days away from the closing of the transfer window and we understand that... the player has decided not to continue and what we want are players committed to Barça. Both for his sake and for the club he has to leave as soon as possible."
Dembélé said that he would not respond to blackmail.
"It's been four consecutive years that I have been listening to things about me and I was quiet," Dembélé wrote on Instagram. "I forbid anyone to give the impression that I am not involved in the sports project or attribute intentions to me that I have never had. We are negotiating and I'll leave my agent with it."
Dembélé was not included in the squad for Thursday's Copa del Rey game at Athletic Bilbao and the Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE) said Barcelona could not punish the France international for not renewing his contract.
"AFE considers that not reaching an agreement to renew an employment contract does not imply a labour breach, so it cannot have any consequence for the provision of services," it said.
Dembélé was brought in as a replacement for Neymar who moved to Paris St Germain in 2017 in a record-breaking transfer when the French club triggered his $252 million release clause.
Barça also signed Philippe Coutinho using the funds from the Neymar deal but the Brazilian midfielder struggled to make an impact, spending the 2019-20 season on loan at Bayern Munich and joining Aston Villa on loan earlier this month.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Pritha Sarkar)