Inexperience caused Dembele hamstring injury: Valverde

Barcelona's record signing Ousmane Dembele reacts after suffering a hamstring injury during the LaLiga match against Getafe.
Barcelona's record signing Ousmane Dembele reacts after suffering a hamstring injury during the LaLiga match against Getafe.PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes Ousmane Dembele's inexperience was partly to blame for the hamstring injury which will keep him out for around four months.

The 20-year-old France winger backheeled the ball while running at speed in the 25th minute of Barca's 2-1 win at Getafe in the Spanish LaLiga on Saturday and immediately pulled up injured.

Dembele, who joined the club from Borussia Dortmund for €105 million (S$170 million) in the close season, was diagnosed on Sunday with a hamstring rupture.

Barcelona said it will sideline their record signing until around Christmas. He has made just three appearances since he joined the Spanish giants.

"What's clear is that this is a player who has never had a muscular problem, he doesn't have the experience to recognise the little pains," Valverde said.

"A player at that speed that makes this backheel move getting hurt, it's not normal but it's one of the possibilities. A veteran player might not have done that."

Dembele is in Finland to have his hamstring operated on and Valverde hopes the youngster can cope with being sidelined.

"It's the hardest thing for a player, he's injured and can't help. He has to be very patient, it's what he has to do," added the 53-year-old.

"It's just one more problem he will encounter in his career. You never want it to happen but we've all had muscle problems, knee injuries. You have to look at it from a long-term perspective."

In Dembele's absence, Valverde said that any one of Gerard Deulofeu, Aleix Vidal, Denis Suarez or Andre Gomes might be chosen to be the forward's replacement.

Deulofeu will relish the opportunity, one which he could only have dreamt about when re-signing for his boyhood club in June.

At the time Deulofeu was seen as a deputy to back up a front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar.

But the 23-year-old has already enjoyed more than three times as many minutes in his second spell at Barca than his first, due to Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.

Dembele is also set to miss the rest of Barcelona's Champions League group fixtures and crucial domestic league clashes with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

At international level, he will be absent from France's final two World Cup qualifiers away to Bulgaria and at home to Belarus next month.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Inexperience caused Dembele hamstring injury: Valverde'. Print Edition | Subscribe