Lionel Messi has opened up about Ousmane Dembele's off-the-pitch problems

RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Ousmane Dembele must be thankful that Barcelona have continued to show faith in him.

The Frenchman’s career in Spain has been pretty turbulent. Injuries limited him to just 17 La Liga appearances in his debut season, while his sophomore campaign has been hindered by problems off the pitch.

Dembele was fined £90,000 for turning up two hours late to a recent training session, with Marca reporting that the Blaugrana have banned him from turning his phone off to ensure he can be contacted at all times.

Thankfully, Dembele’s issues haven’t affected his performances.

With four goals and three assists in his past seven appearances, the 21-year-old is enjoying his best run since arriving at the Camp Nou in 2017.

Barcelona paid an initial £96.8 million fee to sign Dembele from Borussia Dortmund, a figure that could rise to £135.5m.

That sort of outlay was always going to ensure Dembele was given more than one opportunity to find his feet, but there’s no doubt that the World Cup winner needed to start proving himself on the pitch.

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Messi: He can be one of the best

With Dembele firing and Lionel Messi playing at an incredible level, Barcelona will be targeting success on multiple fronts this season.

Messi has spoken about his young teammate in an interview with Marca, and the Argentinian made it clear how he feels about Dembele’s ability.

"On the pitch he is a phenomenon and it depends on him, he has all the opportunity in the world to do what he wants,” Messi said.

“He can be one of the best.”

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Messi acknowledged that Dembele has faced some difficulties away from the pitch, but wants people to stop talking about it.

“On the other hand, he's a young guy who is adapting to the city and the club,” the five-time Ballon d’Or winner added.

“The less you speak about it, the better. It's necessary to leave him so he can be calm.

“He has already realised his mistakes and has rectified them. We are going to help him focus on football."

That’s surely the key for Barcelona.

The worst thing for the Blaugrana would be to see Dembele’s immense talent go to waste.

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