Rennes coach Rolland Courbis has slammed the French Football Federation (FFF) for pushing teenage winger Ousmane Dembele too hard during the international break.
Dembele has burst onto the scene in his maiden season with Rennes’ first team, scoring 10 goals in 19 Ligue 1 appearances.
The 18-year-old’s sensational performances have led to speculation linking him with Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Bayern Munich, with some reports previously suggesting the Bundesliga champions have already secured his services.
Those claims have been denied by agent Badou Sambague and there remains a chance Dembele could experience Champions League football with Rennes, who are two points off the top three with seven games to play.
An injury to Dembele would be a significant blow to those hopes and, after he played the full game in his debut for France’s Under-21s against Scotland last Thursday and then 88 minutes in Monday’s meeting with Macedonia, Courbis criticised the FFF for risking the youngster’s fitness.
He told RMC: “I’m not upset by the fact Ousmane Dembele was average on Monday but by the fact a boy of 18-and-a-half selected for the first time with the emotional side it can generate, can play 90 minutes Thursday and 88 minutes tonight [Monday] without it being possible to think he can be tired.
“If Dembele had been injured and we did not have him for the final sprint, I would have fought the idiots in the Federation.
“Every five minutes I would cross myself and pray he did not hurt himself. I was watching the match and I pinched myself.
“The way everything came together, he could quite easily have been injured; he had the fatigue of the first match, it was his second time playing for the U21s [against Macedonia], the length of time he was used.
“I am defending the interests of the club that employs me.
“Saturday against Reims, Dembele will play perhaps only a half because of these two matches between three days. If Saturday’s game was the 38th of the season, I would have said he starts and plays even 94 minutes.
“I said without irony to two friends tonight: ‘Do you think if there had been extra time in both these matches, they would have used Dembele for 120 minutes twice?’. All because he has been quite irresistible lately.”
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