Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde believes the club must pull together to ensure Ousmane Dembele reaches his potential.
Dembele came off the bench with 10 minutes to go away to Atletico Madrid on Saturday, Diego Costa having given the hosts the lead with a towering back-post header.
And when Lionel Messi fed the France forward on the right of the box in the last minute, Dembele beat goalkeeper Jan Oblak with a low shot that squeezed past international team-mate Lucas Hernandez on the line.
Dembele has had a difficult adaptation at Barcelona after joining from Borussia Dortmund, a serious long-term injury affecting his development last season.
Regular stories speculating Dembele could leave Barcelona have appeared in the media, as well as reports about his private life.
Dembele’s time-keeping has also been an issue but Valverde feels it must be a collective effort for the 21-year-old, who has scored five league goals this season, to hit his peak.
“He has decisive appearances in the game and with important goals,” Valverde told a news conference. “He has had continuity, in a team it takes everything
“Dembele has things that nobody else in the squad has – self-confidence, one against one, shooting with both feet, personality…
“You have to help him get the talent out.”
7 – No other player has won more points with his goals than Ousmane Dembélé in La Liga this season (seven points with five goals). Rescuer. pic.twitter.com/36QgTjg6IF
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 24, 2018
Atletico have never beaten Barca in the league during Diego Simeone’s seven years in charge but they are only a point behind Valverde’s leaders, who lost their last match 4-3 at home to Real Betis.
Valverde, though, demurred when asked if he feels Atletico are going to offer the strongest challenge to his side in the title race, with Real Madrid five points back after their 3-0 loss at Eibar.
“I do not know if they are the main one, but they are a rival,” he added. “If we see the game, we played a big percentage in the opposite half because we wanted to win.
“We lacked some spark, but we have to see how Atleti defends, in their stadium, it is difficult to find lines and unbalance them.
“In general there are things to improve, we lacked some spark in the last few metres, but we controlled the opponent well, not like in the previous game.”
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