Ousmane Dembele stepped up his injury recovery on Monday (20 November) amid suggestions that Barcelona’s record signing could be ready to return to action when the La Liga leaders visit Real Madrid on 23 December.
The 20-year-old forward moved to the Nou Camp from Borussia Dortmund during the summer transfer window in a club-record deal worth €105m (£93.2m, $125m) plus €40m in add-ons.
The Frenchman was expected to fill the gap left by Neymar’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain but he has instead been on the sidelines since September after suffering a serious muscle injury during Barcelona’s 2-1 victory over Getafe on 16 September.
On 19 September the club issued an official announcement to confirm that the France international was going to be out of action for three and a half months after undergoing an operation with specialist Sakari Orava in Finland.
Dembele was expected to be out of action until January, missing 20 games in total, including the first El Clasico of the season in Madrid.
Earlier this month, manager Ernesto Valverde reiterated that the recovery was going according to that original schedule, with Dembele having then started to do some light training.
“Yesterday he was doing some exercises in the sand. Still without boots. The recovery process is going normally. I speak with him. He is happy because he is doing well. The players always want to go faster but we think that we cannot count on him until after Christmas,” Valverde confirmed on 3 November.
However, Dr Orava was much more positive days later, suggesting that Dembele could return slightly ahead of schedule and in time to play some minutes against Real.
“Could he play against Madrid? Maybe, maybe… but I can’t assure you of anything,” Orava said on 7 November. “Right now he is training in the sandpits that Barça have and I think that in the middle of November he’ll be able to touch a ball again.”
Two days after Orava’s surprising update, Barcelona released a video of Dembele doing some light runs at the club’s training ground.
But the Frenchman looked in much better shape on Monday morning as the club released footage of him undertaking a series of high-intensity sprints, showing no signs of any struggle.
Dembele is yet to work with the ball on the training pitch but that latest update will surely give Barcelona fans some encouragement 33 days before the highly-awaited trip to Real.
“FC Barcelona’s French forward trained at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper to start the week as he continues his recovery from the hamstring injury he picked up in September,” the club confirmed on their official website.
“Training on Monday for the FC Barcelona first team saw Ousmane Dembélé continue with his recovery process. The Frenchman has been out of action since 16 September with an injury to his left hamstring, suffered in the 1-2 La Liga win against Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez.
“After undergoing surgery in Helsinki, Finland, Dembélé returned to Barcelona and we have already seen him at the Ciutat Esportiva on several occasions working on his recovery. Before his unfortunate injury, the 20-year-old had played his first minutes for the club against Espanyol (providing an assist for Luis Suárez) and started in the Champions League in the opening fixture against this week’s opponents Juventus.”
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated