Defiant Dortmund denies Dembele sale to Barca is 'close'

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke rubbishes claims by Barcelona's general manager that the Spanish giant is 'close' to signing the club's want-away winger Ousmane Dembele.

Borussia Dortmund's French midfielder Ousmane Dembele smiles as he takes his seat for a team photo during a club press event in Dortmund, western Germany, on August 9, 2017.

Borussia Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke on Thursday rubbished claims by Barcelona general manager Pep Segura that the Spanish giant was ‘close’ to signing the German club’s want-away winger Ousmane Dembele.

“Barcelona have not managed to fulfil their wish to complete Dembele’s transfer — until now, they aren’t one millimeter closer,” Watzke told German magazine Kicker.

Watzke’s comments referred to Segura’s claim on Wednesday that Barcelona is “close” to completing a deal for Dembele as well as Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho.

Dembele, 20, has a contract until 2021 and was suspended indefinitely by Dortmund last week for skipping training in a personal protest to pressure the club to sell him to Barcelona.

The Frenchman is suspended for Dortmund’s opening Bundesliga match against Wolfsburg on Saturday, which is an unwelcome distraction for new Borussia coach Peter Bosz.

“It is not possible to completely blend it out, but I try to focus on the players who are here, which he isn’t,” said Bosz when asked about Dembele.

“I don’t know what will happen, we have to be patient for a few more days.”

Barcelona wants to sign both Dembele and Coutinho as attacking reinforcements after losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and there is a sense of urgency after Barcelona lost 1-5 on aggregate to bitter Real Madrid in the two-legged Spanish Super Cup, losing 0-2 on Wednesday.

According to Spanish media, Barcelona is offering 80 million euros (US$93.5 million), plus a bonus of 40 million euros, but Dortmund wants 150 million euros for Dembele — 10 times what it paid Rennes in 2016.

Dembele’s decision to strike has irked his teammates.

He missed Saturday’s 4-0 win at minnow Rielasingen-Arlen in the first round of the German Cup when Gabon hot-shot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick.

Now Dortmund's tough-tackling defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos says Dembele should follow the example of Aubameyang, who has been linked to a big-money move to China but has been told that he is staying.

"Ousmane is a good lad, but he has to recognize that no player is bigger than the team," Sokratis told Thursday's edition of magazine Kicker.

"Everyone has to be clear that he must work for the team and fall in line. This also applies to Ousmane — he can't just do whatever he wants.

"He should take Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as an example. 'Auba' also could imagine leaving, but he behaves professionally in every training session and every game and gives his best.

"In the first round of the Cup, he scored three goals — Ousmane wasn't there.

"Ousmane has done no good by going on strike. He should not forget that he still has a long-term contract at Dortmund."

Sokratis says he hopes Dembele will return to training soon.

"At first he has to get in touch with us again and come to training. Then we will see," said Sokratis.

"Ousmane has given a lot for us. He is a player who makes the difference and we need players like that.

"But we also need players who don't shut themselves out and who want to be part of our family. Apparently Ousmane doesn't want that."

Imminent move

Meanwhile, Fiorentina will sanction want-away Croatian striker Nikola Kalinic after he failed to turn up for training on Thursday amid reports of an imminent move to league rivals AC Milan.

Although no formal announcement has been made by either club, Kalinic is expected to become the latest recruit at Milan as the Serie A giant continues its impressive summer spending spree following its takeover by a Chinese consortium last season.

In the meantime, the Croatia marksman is set to be fined after "violating club regulations".

A statement by Fiorentina said: "Nikola failed to attend our daily training session and did not inform the club of his reasons. The player, having violated club regulations, will be sanctioned."

Kalinic, who joined Fiorentina from Ukrainian side Dnipro in 2015, has earned a reputation as one of the most clinical strikers in Italy's top flight.

The 29-year-old, who spent two fractious seasons at Blackburn Rovers from 2009-2011, famously hit a hat-trick in a 4-1 San Siro win over Inter Milan two seasons ago — a win that sent La Viola top of the league for the first time since the 1998-99 season.

Kalinic's training ground absence, meanwhile, will only fuel speculation that a move to Milan, where he would join up with former Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella, will be completed before the weekend — especially if Colombian striker Carlos Bacca fulfills expectations and joins Villarreal.

The seven-time European champion has been the Seri  A's biggest spender so far in the summer transfer period with purchases exceeding 180 million euros.

Former Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci (41.5 million euros), striker Andre Silva (Porto, 37.6 million) and Andrea Conti (Atalanta, 24.7 million) top Milan's list of transfers ahead of the 2017-2018 season, which begins on Saturday.

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