Ernesto Valverde has denied that Ousmane Dembele’s omission from the Barcelona squad to face Real Betis was a punishment and has insisted that ‘internal issues stay internal’.

The Spanish champions lost 4-3 to Real Betis on Sunday and French international Dembele was left out of the squad, having reportedly gone missing from training for 90 minutes on Thursday without notifying club staff.

However, Valverde was quick to back the talents of the 21-year-old, while maintaining that he was not punishing the player by leaving him out of the matchday squad.

“The only thing we hope for is that he shows his talent every day,” Valverde said at a press conference, as reported by Football Espana.

“He’s a great player and we hope to see the best of him. I try to do what’s best for my team and club. Someone might play one game and then someone else the next.

“Internal issues stay internal. I make assessments that are for the good of the team and I take everything into account when making them.

“We want to help all our players improve. Everyone in the squad can be starters, knowing that after a spell without playing, they have to be ready.”

Sunday saw the return of Lionel Messi to the Barcelona squad, with the Argentine having missed the last five games with a forearm fracture.

However, his presence – and two goals – was not enough to prevent Barcelona from falling to a shock home defeat and miss out on a chance to extend their lead at the top of La Liga to four points.

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