"The Dembele episode is starting," said a fed up Ernesto Valverde. One, two, three... four questions in a row about the Frenchman. It was a pain for the Barcelona coach, who's tired of dodgng questions from the media about Ousmane's punctuality.
Patience. Valverde had to show a lot of patience. "Do you remember any teammate who was really late all the time?" he was asked. "Uffff, I've seen everything," he said, laughing. "Dembele's [tardiness] has even happened to me.... But not many times."
That was the final straight. The more relaxed Valverde. Although without completely abandoning his usual demeanour.
You could tell that Tuesday's game against Tottenham is not important for Barça -- already through as group winners -- despite being a Champions League fixture. And Valverde was as Valverde as normal.
He dealt with the Dembele issue with diplomacy (he said that it has to be solved internally and called him up for the Spurs game).
WHAT TO DO WITH DembELE?
No one has found a solution for Dembele. And on Monday, Urbano Ortega, who was Robert Fernandez's No.2, revealed on COPE that the club knew about his complicated company and discipline problems when they signed him.
For now, Valverde's opting for diplomacy, knowing that the player's performances on the pitch have been key this season (he's scored eight goals in all competitions).
On Monday, the coach picked a strong squad for Spurs. Not even Luis Suarez was left out, despite the claim that he will not play. Both he and Lionel Messi are in the squad, although the Uruguayan will surely be on the bench -- if not left out at the last minute (there's 19 players in the squad) -- to rest his knee.
Barça will make some changes (Cillessen in goal, Coutinho and Arthur could start). But there will not be wholesale rotation with young players coming in. Riqui Puig is not even in the squad.
But Dembele will be there (it would be a surprise if he's the one left out of the squad at the last minute). Curiously it's Camp Nou, where you don't often get second chances, who are taking the best care of the Frenchman.