A surprise out of nowhere. Ousmane Dembele will play for Paris Saint-Germain after a long negotiation is now in the final stages… but very unexpected if you think only a few weeks ago, when nobody believed that there were any chances for Ousmane to leave Barcelona.
A real shock, especially for manager Xavi Hernandez who has been crucial in recent years to help Dembele return to the fantastic level player we have all known.
It was February 2022 when Ousmane, whose contract expired in June 2022, remained at Barcelona despite a last minute negotiation with Paris Saint-Germain for a swap deal that did not materialize.
It seemed like a final break between Dembele and Barca... but the player wanted to get back into the club's project and Xavi Hernandez helped him incredibly by believing in him despite his contract only expiring after a few months.
Thanks to Xavi and Ousmane's hard work, peace has come with Barca and... the new contract arrived, valid until 30 June 2024 but with a €50m release clause in July and €100m in August. Two very dangerous clauses.
And yet, his agent Moussa Sissoko had met some members of the Barcelona board (not Deco, busy on a mission in Istanbul for Arda Guler in those days) in early July to discuss and advance negotiations on a new contract for Dembele.
It was like a fairytale between Dembele and Barca: all parties happy, both on the club side and on the player side; one intention, go forward together with a new contract to avoid future problems and alarms. And then... what happened?
On the Dembele side, sources believe Ousmane has been offered to other clubs (including PSG) in other potential swap deals by Barcelona. The club, on the other hand, denies these rumors and guarantees that it has never thought of selling Ousmane in the summer.
The result is a clear, sudden, unexpected break: Dembele's agent, Moussa Sissoko, studied a strategy that leads Paris Saint-Germain to reach an agreement with Ousmane for a five-year contract valid until 30 June 2028.
But it was the end of July and there was little, very little time to activate the official release clause of La Liga.
In fact, by regulation, the official clause of La Liga can only be activated by the player himself and not by the club; Ousmane was in the USA with Barcelona and the deal was impossible to complete.
But before the €100m release clause in August was activated, PSG with a formal communication to Barcelona activated a private clause present in Dembele's contract and top secret until then.
A €50m clause... with the possibility of negotiating the best exit strategy on both clubs sides, thus "forcing" Barcelona and PSG to negotiate while recognizing an important percentage of the €50m to the player and his camp.
After a week of tension, meetings and negotiations, Barcelona will receive more than €25m for Dembele and has given the green light on Tuesday night for Ousmane to fly to Paris and complete his move to PSG.
It was not possible to change his mind; Xavi Hernandez tried it for the last time a week earlier, on Monday July 31st. A face-to-face discussion with Ousmane in the US did not help change the situation.
Moussa Sissoko's secret strategy had already convinced Dembele to accept PSG; Barcelona could only raise their hands and negotiate Ousmane's exit on the best terms for the club.
The end of a story of ups and downs between Dembele and Barca, certainly an end that no one would have foreseen until 15 days ago.