When Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez was brought in as the manager of the club in November, it was clear that the change would not occur overnight. The post-Lionel Messi era began in underwhelming fashion both on and off the field for Blaugrana.
When Xavi arrived he made it a priority to fix the culture of the club. He demanded more discipline, intensity and commitment from his players. No room for excuses was provided by the new boss as he wishes to see more unity in his squad.
One man who has clearly struggled to stay disciplined and follow these rules is Ousmane Dembele. The Frenchman has been known for being a notorious character since his days as a Borussia Dortmund player. He has a tendency to take rules and guidelines lightly.
According to reports from Diario AS, the Barcelona attacker could be punished with a fine for being absent from a team meeting on Sunday. Apparently, Xavi was going to announce the team that was going to travel to Alaves for the away fixture. All the available players were supposed to show up at the meeting.
But the Frenchman was a no-show at Ciutat Esportiva the morning of the game. When the club enquired about his absence, Dembele is said to have cited his stomach illness as an excuse. Notably, he was absolutely fine on Saturday and participated in full training with the team.
No one at the club believes his reasons to be true and according to the internal rules established, the winger is likely to be charged with a fine.
The 24-year-old's Barcelona career is essentially over unless there is a dramatic turn in the tale. The Frenchman has decided against extending his contract, which runs out in the summer. The club are looking to offload him in January itself.
Xavi and his team's patience was tested in the away fixture against Alaves on Sunday. Barcelona had to wait until the final few minutes of the game to secure a dramatic late win. The visitors did not create enough chances and when the opportunity did present itself they lacked the clinical touch.
Alaves stayed firm in the defensive third as Luuk de Jong fired one of the better opportunities wide of the goal. Gerard Pique was also denied an opportunity to put his team in front. Eventually, the deadlock broke in the 88th minute when Frenkie de Jong capitalized on a cutback by Ferran Torres.
The Dutch midfielder's future at Barcelona is being speculated upon with various sources claiming he is unsettled. However, Xavi seems to have faith in the midfielder. Unless the club are compelled by their financial troubles, they will not sell him.
Next, Xavi and co. will welcome defending champions Atletico Madrid and former striker Luis Suarez to Camp Nou. Only one point separates the two sides, with the Catalans in fifth position and Los Rojiblancos placed fourth. The result of the clash will be crucial as both sides hope to secure Champions League places.