Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman insisted Ousmane Dembele was left out of their win against Celta for tactical reasons amid loan interest from Manchester United.
Dembele, 23, has been heavily linked with an exit in the summer window as Barcelona look to free up funds to secure a move for former United forward Memphis Depay.
MEN Sport understands Dembele is under consideration as an emergency loan option if they fail to secure a deal for priority target Jadon Sancho before Monday’s international transfer deadline. The Reds have no intention of buying the winger permanently given his struggles in Spain.
The France international was an unused substitute during Barcelona’s win against Celta on Thursday night which fuelled the speculation he is set to depart.
However, Koeman insists the decision to bench Dembele was purely tactical.
“I think Pedri and Trincao can contribute more defensively than Dembele can, that’s why they played,” he said following the game. “We showed a lot of discipline. At the break, we talked about the 4-4-1 system and the players have done a great job.
“I’m very proud of this team today, we have worked very well, with one player less. I can’t say much about last season, but from day one I’ve seen the players very eager and eager to turn the situation around.”
Dembele has been backed for a move to Old Trafford by former players Darren Fletcher and Andy Cole.
Cole told Sky Sports: “If you speak to Fletch, he’ll say the same thing. I think Manchester United are looking to add players that are going to make the team a lot stronger, as well as the squad.
“Hopefully, by the end of the window, they can add a few more players. Dembele, if he comes, will be a very good signing, I think we all know how good of a player he is. He’s still very young, but very, very talented, so fingers crossed that Man United will bring a few more and make the team a lot stronger.”
Fletcher said: “I think a loan deal would suit United, and probably both parties, I think he needs a fresh challenge, coming to a massive club like Manchester United.”