Ronald Koeman admits he would like Ousmane Dembele to extend his stay at Barcelona amid growing interest from Manchester United, says the Daily Mail.
Dembele has less than two years left to run on his contract at Camp Nou, which could force Barcelona to offload him in the upcoming transfer window.
The 23-year-old has started to show glimpses of his potential this year after overcoming a series of injuries during his early career in Spain.
Dembele experienced an injury-plagued start to his La Liga life since completing his blockbuster £136 million arrival from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.
However, the Frenchman seems to have finally managed to leave the physical setbacks behind and is currently one of Koeman’s favourite forwards.
The highly-rated winger has grown increasingly vital to the Dutchman’s tactical set-up, clocking up ten goals and four assists across all competitions this term.
Dembele propelled Barcelona to within a single-point distance from Atletico Madrid on Monday, scoring a last-gasp winner against a stubborn Real Valladolid side.
During the post-match interview, Koeman was full of praise for his improving winger, insisting he wants the player to prolong his stay in Catalonia.
“I would like Dembele to stay, he is an important player for us,” the Dutch manager said, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
“Today, he has shown that with his game and the goal. The key is that he has physically improved and has been able to play a lot of games in a row.”
However, there is still a veil of mystery surrounding Dembele’s future at Barcelona, with United among the sides ready to pounce for the resurgent forward.
If the Blaugrana fail to arrange a contract extension by the beginning of summer, they may well have to consider the sale of the French star to avoid the risk of seeing him leave for free next year.
The current La Liga runners-up will be looking to recoup most of the stratospheric figure they dished out to snatch Dembele away from Dortmund four years ago.
But they may have to accept a cut-price deal in the summer, especially given the club’s current financial state.
Elsewhere, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is on the hunt for a top-class winger to boost United’s hopes of winning their first silverware in the post-Jose Mourinho era.
After seeing his pursuit of Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho fall flat last summer, the Norwegian is eager to either snap up the Englishman this time around or sign a player of a similar calibre.
Dembele certainly fits the bill, and with cash-strapped Barcelona having virtually no room for manoeuvre, the Frenchman could arrive at Old Trafford for a reasonable price.