Ousmane Dembele was linked with plenty of clubs in January, including Arsenal, but he wasn’t close to joining any of them.
Arsenal were one of a number of Premier League clubs linked with a move for Ousmane Dembele in the transfer window, with Manchester United, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur also named as potential suitors for the player.
It’s often difficult to uncover the truth in these transfer links, and you may prefer to spend your time trying out gonzo’s quest pokie. But various sources suggest Barcelona themselves may have been trying to control the narrative around a January departure.
Guillem Balague told the BBC that Barcelona were driving the whole saga around Dembele.
Whilst the reality seems to be that Manchester United and Chelsea weren’t interested, Spurs thought he was too expensive, and Arsenal were never seriously in the mix at all, Barcelona wanted it to seem like Dembele was available and in demand.
“It was Barcelona trying to drive attention to the fact he may be available,” Balague said. “They are going to paint the picture it was Dembele rejecting the moves, but that was not the case.”
The Arsenal links seem to be as much to do with the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as anything else.
It was clear that Barcelona had some financial difficulties, and that they wanted to bring in Aubameyang, so the departure of Dembele to Arsenal would have helped the Catalan club to get that deal done.
A simple swap with Dembele joining Arsenal and Aubameyang joining Barcelona would have removed the complications of a third party and eased the financial burden.
But there were never any reliable reports suggesting the Gunners seriously wanted to bring Dembele in. If they did, it likely wouldn’t have been too difficult to convince Barcelona.
Instead, Dembele will remain with his current club until the summer, when his contract expires and he’ll be available on a free transfer.
The upside of that outcome for Dembele himself is that he’ll get to spend some more time with Aubameyang.
Less than a year ago, Dembele described Aubameyang as the person he has liked the most in football.
They certainly got along well at Borussia Dortmund, so it would have been unfortunate if Dembele left Barcelona in the deal that brought Aubameyang in.