Ernesto Valverde insists he will adopt a patient approach with Ousmane Dembele after the youngster made his return for Barcelona during their 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
France international Dembele was a high-profile arrival at Camp Nou during the summer, as he became Barca’s club-record signing after joining from Borussia Dortmund for a reported €105million.
However, the 20-year-old’s start to life in Catalonia was disrupted after he suffered a thigh injury in September, a problem that kept him out of action for the best part of four months.
Dembele made his long-awaited return to the first-team fold as a substitute during the Blaugrana’s draw with Celta on Thursday, with Valverde utilising the forward in a central striking role rather than on the wing, as he felt that was the best way to ease him back into action.
“It was so that Dembele played in a position where he was released of defensive obligations, which were a bit stressful at that time of the match,” Valverde said of Dembele’s positional switch.
“When we know that this was the first game of this player after almost four months without playing, I preferred that he be in a position where he can gradually get used to the game.”
Valverde believes Dembele is not yet ready to play a full 90 minutes of competitive action, although he could feature when Barca play host to Levante in the league on Sunday as well as the second leg of their cup tie with Celta next Thursday.
Barca are currently nine points clear at the top of the La Liga standings and they are priced at 1.05 to win the title.