The decision to play the winger or to banish him from the first team will be up to Xavi. Here's what the Camp Nou boss favors.

Ousmane Dembele was expected to leave Barcelona last month after a breakdown in contract negotiations; however, the Catalan giants failed in pushing the out-of-favor Frenchman out the Camp Nou door.

Despite links with PSG and several English Premier League clubs, namely Chelsea and Man United, a move never materialized. The former Dortmund ace remained in Catalonia, or rather refused to leave, as the option of terminating his contract was suggested.

In similar fashion to the way Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined the Spanish giants on deadline day, the Blaugraa would have torn up his deal, which expires this summer, thus permitting him to join another club for free. However, the winger felt this was not the appropriate way to end his Camp Nou career and thus chose to stay put despite the turmoil.

But what does this mean for his season? Barcelona director Mateu Alemany announced last month that the player would be omitted from the squad due to a lack of commitment, and the Frenchman has not featured since. Will he continue to be exiled as punishment until the current campaign ends?

According to Marca, Xavi does not prefer this approach. Club president Joan Laporta recently stated that the Dembele decision will be left to the head coach, and with the Spanish publication claiming that the Camp Nou boss is open to playing the 24-year-old, everything points to the attacker returning to the mix.

The report offers several reasons for this. First of all, while the Catalan giants were active in the January market, landing Adama Traore on loan and securing Aubameyang on a permanent deal, those two signings might not hit the ground running in a new league. As a result, Ousmane’s services could still be required despite all but replacing him.

Additionally, the speedy winger is close friends with Aubameyang from their Dortmund days and will play a key role in helping the Gabonese ace settle in. Then there is the issue of the overall dressing room harmony, as an unhappy Dembele could give rise to unwanted toxicity behind closed doors.

Given that Barcelona are in fifth, a point behind fourth-placed Atletico and a whopping five adrift of third-placed Real Betis, the club must maximize all their resources in their pursuit of UEFA Champions League qualification. Nonetheless, the player’s days are numbered, with Laporta stating that the winger will leave for free this summer while admitting "it will be very difficult for [Dembele] to play".