The ongoing transfer saga involving Ousmane Dembele took a further twist on Thursday afternoon (10 August) after Borussia Dortmund insisted that they have rejected Barcelona's opening bid for the highly-regarded French forward.
Long-term suitors Barcelona have identified Dembele as their number one target to replace Neymar, who joined Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record deal last week. The Catalan giants dispatched a delegation to Germany in order to conduct negotiations with BVB, who will owe 25% of any fee to Stade Rennais.
Things appeared to progress significantly on Thursday, with Le Parisien reporting that the two clubs were close to reaching an agreement over an eye-watering €130m transfer that would see Dembele follow Neymar as the second most expensive footballer of all time.
It was further suggested that the deal was just hours away from being concluded.
Dortmund manager Peter Bosz subsequently confirmed that the 20-year-old had not reported for training as expected and that attempts to contact him had failed.
"Dembele didn't show up for training today," he said in a press conference. "We don't know where he is. We couldn't reach him today.
"I talked to Dembele yesterday. He told me he was in Paris with his friends. He did not say anything about a transfer. There was no sign yesterday that Ousmane would not be here today. We hope nothing terrible has happened."
Social media was subsequently abuzz with conflicting rumours that Dembele, who would become Barcelona's fourth summer signing following the respective additions of Marlon Santos, Gerard Deulofeu and Nelson Semedo, was still in Paris and awaiting permission to fly to Catalonia. However, Dortmund have now sought to clarify the situation in a statement released via their official website.
"Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KGaA ("BVB") has held a meeting with the Catalan football club FC Barcelona about a possible transfer of BVB player Ousmane Dembele to FC Barcelona," they wrote.
"In this meeting, the representatives of FC Barcelona have submitted a bid which, however, did not correspond to the player's extraordinary footballing value and status as well as to the current econonomic market situation of the European transfer market. BVB therefore rejected this offer.
"As there is no other offer from FC Barcelona to date, a transfer of the player to FC Barcelona is at present not more than likely."
BVB sporting director Michael Zorc subsequently revealed that Dembele has been fined and suspended from both matches and training until after Saturday's (12 August) DFB Pokal first-round clash against minnows Rielasingen for missing training without an excuse. The club also insisted that the player was currently in Dortmund, contrary to other rumours.