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Barcelona dropped Ousmane Dembélé from Xavi's 22-man squad hours before their Copa del Rey round of 16 tie against Athletic Bilbao. Club director Mateu Alemany, in an interview with Barça TV, said the 24-year-old French winger "must leave immediately" in the January transfer window after his agent Moussa Sissoko turned down several offers to renew his contract.

"With Ousmane and his agents we started conversations around the month of July," Alemany said. "Over that time, almost seven months, we have talked, Barça made different offers, we tried to find a way for the player to continue with us and those offers have been continuously rejected by his agents.

"It seems obvious to us that the does not want to continue at Barcelona and is not committed to Barça's future project. We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want players committed to the project.

"We expect a transfer before Jan. 31. From a sporting perspective, we don't want to have players who don't want to be at Barça. The fact that he was not in the [squad] list is the consequence of this whole process."

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Alemany said the decision to keep Dembélé off the squad was made by Xavi with "full support" from the club.

Dembélé, who has spent four-plus years at the club, is now on the market and out of contract in June 2022. The negotiations between Sissoko and the club on a possible contract renewal broke down several weeks ago. 

"Barcelona leaders are losing Dembélé on their own," Sissoko told French outlet RMC on Monday. "They cannot use the threat that Dembélé will spend six months without playing if he does not renew now. It's the kind of pressure that doesn't work against people like us and me.

"If Barcelona wanted to negotiate, they could have come to the table with us to talk. Except there has been no discussion, just threats of no longer playing him [for six months]. That is forbidden and we will assert Ousmane's rights if necessary."  

During his pre-match press conference, Barça manager Xavi followed up Sissoko's comments to make it clear that Dembélé, who could be a target of Newcastle, needs to find a new team with only 11 days remaining in the current transfer window.

"The message is clear. Ousmane Dembélé has to sign a new contract or we find a way to sell him in January," Xavi said. "There's no other way.

"I also wonder about agent is talking the way he is and Dembélé, on the other hand, telling me he wants to stay. I can't understand it." 

Dembélé released a statement via Instagram in response to Barça's decision and reaffirming his stance:

"Starting today, I will answer honestly, without giving in to any kind of blackmail," Dembélé said. "I am 24 years old and like every man, I have flaws, imperfections. I have lived through complex moments, injuries, COVID-19, it affected me.

"For four years people have spoken for me and shamefully lied with a single purpose, with an intention to harm me. I have been following my line of never answering for four years, of never justifying myself. Has it been a mistake? Surely. As of today, it's over.

"Nevertheless, my message is transparent. I forbid anyone to think that I am not out of [Barça's] project."

The out-of-favor Frenchman joined Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 in what was considered a blockbuster signing for €105 million (plus €40 million in add-ons) at the time. His turbulent stint at Barça has been marred by injuries and lack of playing time, with only five matches played in 2019-20 and only six this season. He's only got 18 goals in 87 league matches for Barça, including none thus far this season. The club is in the midst of a rebuild due to their debt crisis and fueled by La Liga salary rules. Getting rid of Dembélé's wages in January could in theory ease their financial woes.