FC Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele has credited boss Xavi Hernandez for convincing him to continue at Camp Nou.
Dembele was linked with various clubs in the last two summers. Ahead of the 2022-23 season, the French player was without a contract and could have joined any club as a free agent. However, he accepted a lowered salary and decided to stay at Barcelona.
In a recent interview, Dembele spoke about how Xavi convinced him to stay at the Catalan club and also said that "I always said that I wanted to stay in Barcelona and I feel good there."
"Trust is very important, and Xavi has given it to me. After what Xavi told me, I decided to stay. I want Barça to win the Champions League again. It's been seven years since they've done that. I always told Xavi that I wanted to stay at the club. Afterwards, it was negotiations and contractual. I remember a meeting in December, where I told him that I was going to sign my contract," Dembele said, reported Barca Blaugranes.
Dembele agreed he "wasted" a lot of time over the last few years because of injuries.
The player missed at least 15 games in each of the seasons since his $103 million move from Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona in 2017.
Just last season, when Barcelona were struggling following the departure of Lionel Messi, the club was also without Dembele for a huge chunk of time. The 25-year-old forward missed 18 games, in all competitions, for Barcelona last term.
"From 2017 to 2021 I wasted my time enormously. I have lost five years of my life. I had to work to be able to play, to be healthy, and to be able to perform little by little. I've had a lot of hamstring injuries. The trainers insisted to me that if I didn't work more, I was going to relapse," Dembele told RMC Sport.
Under head coaches Ronald Koeman and Xavi Hernandez, Dembele has found a better fitness run and has finally begun to showcase his potential.
"With Koeman, I started to improve and with Xavi, it has gone better. When I came to Barca I was younger, of course, I went out, but not as much as people say or as people imagine," the Barcelona forward added.
Dembele has featured in every fixture of Barcelona so far in the 2022-23 campaign. In six La Liga games, Dembele has netted two goals and provided two assists. He has not scored in the Champions League but has set up two goals, which came in his side's 5-1 win over Czech club Viktoria Plzen.
Dembele is currently with the France national side for their upcoming Nations League fixtures against Austria and Denmark.