The former Dortmund ace failed to live up to his € 105million transfer fee but, after changing his lifestyle, the Frenchman feels stronger than ever
Barcelona made a lot of terrible decisions under Josep Maria Bartomeu. Choosing Ousmane Dembele over Kylian Mbappe might just be the worst.
The Blaugrana were stunned when Neymar sensationally left Camp Nou in the summer of 2017 to join Paris Saint-Germain, who then sent new shockwaves into the football world by signing Monaco’s Mbappe on a debut loan agreement.
However, according to Junior agent Minguella, Barcelona had struck a € 155million (£ 134million / $ 184million) deal to sign Mbappe before moving to Parc des Princes.
Minguella, however, claims the Catalans ultimately decided Borussia Dortmund winger Dembele was “better suited to the team’s style of play”.
When Minguella told this story on Radio Marca in February disbelief was rampant, so he then produced WhatsApp messages to verify his claims, tweeting: “A gift for haters and unbelievers.”
It’s certainly easy to see why Barca fans wouldn’t even want to entertain the idea that they could have had Mbappe play alongside Lionel Messi in the Champions League last 16 draw this season – rather than Dembele.
The outcome would undoubtedly have been very different. Mbappe, after all, has scored four times on both legs; Dembele missed four clear chances.
Waste has arguably been the dominant theme of Dembele’s time at Camp Nou. The € 105m (£ 90m / $ 125m) signing has a lot in common with his good friend Mbappe: They are young, French and fast at the same time. However, one is clearly more clinical than the other.
Indeed, the lasting image of Dembele’s Barca career to date is almost excusing him to help a stunned Messi get back on his feet, after missing a chance against Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League semi-final. that the exhausted Argentinian had put on a plate for him. .
Had Dembele converted that opening to added time at Camp Nou, the Blaugrana would have traveled to Anfield with a 4-0 lead in the first leg. Even Jurgen Klopp’s “mentality giants” wouldn’t have believed the tie was still alive.
Dembele hasn’t just let Barca down on the pitch; it also proved an incredibly frustrating number. There have been repeated cases of delays and many revelations of an unhealthy and unprofessional lifestyle.
As Goal First reported in October 2018, Barca even considered cutting their losses on Dembele in the January 2019 transfer window. The fact that he’s still at Camp Nou is mainly due to the fact that the Blaugrana don’t couldn’t find a buyer, at least not at the price they demanded.
With just over a year on his contract, Barca could consider reselling him this summer. There would be no shortage of interested parties looking to take advantage of the Catalans’ financial difficulties to sign a talented winger for a rollover fee.
And that’s the problem with Dembele: His potential is both obvious and huge, which is why Barca are reportedly reluctant to let him go unless a colossal offer arrives. For now, however, Dembele is as likely to sign a new contract as he is on leave.
New chairman Joan Laporta is a “big fan,” telling Gerard Romero on Twitch recently: “I’ve always been in favor of Ousmane. I think he deserves special treatment because with these types of genius players, you have to heal them. I really like seeing Dembele doing so well. “
And he’s been doing well lately. Or, at the very least, better, both physically and mentally.
While Dembele used to binge on fast food while playing computer games until the wee hours of the morning with his massive entourage, he has now adopted a healthier diet and a healthier routine, thanks to the help from the club and a personal chef.
Therefore, Dembele feels stronger than ever. “When I arrived here I was very fragile,” he admitted on the official UEFA website earlier this year.
“Even when I was starting professionally in Rennes and Borussia Dortmund I was very fragile, but I have come a long way in Barcelona with the physical coaches. My way of training, my way of preparing for matches, everything has changed.
“The years go by and I grow older, so it’s normal for me to change a bit. I am more comfortable, I feel good here in Barcelona and in my own life.
“Even though I had three years of little physical problems, these are the challenges of life, and that’s how it is. You have to face them with a smile.
He was beaming from ear to ear after winning a crucial 90th-minute winner on Monday night against Valladolid, meaning Barca would enter this weekend’s Clasico just one point behind La Liga leaders Liga Atletico Madrid.
Again, there were a lot of infuriating elements in Dembele’s play, including the inability to find the back of the net with Barca’s best opening just before the hour, after being put on goal by Messi.
However, he was a constant threat, whether deployed on the right or left flank, given he is a wonderfully dual talent.
It was Dembele’s run that drew the foul which resulted in Oscar Plano’s crucial dismissal with 12 minutes remaining, which in turn set the stage for the relentless pressure that drove Dembele back. at home with the left foot in the final seconds.
He now has two goals in his last two games and while that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s important to him.
There was never any doubt about Dembele’s ability. Like Laporta, Barca legend Andres Iniesta thinks the 23-year-old has a ‘genius’ in his feet, Messi thinks he can become a ‘phenomenon’, while the great Luis Figo says Dembele reminds him more of him – same as any other winger in the game today.
However, as France boss Didier Deschamps has always pointed out, Dembele’s problems have always been a lack of efficiency and consistency, both of which were linked to his injury issues and unprofessional approach.
Since his last layoff in December, however, Dembele’s attitude has changed, and now so has his fortune. He plays and contributes regularly.
With 10 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions, he could well improve his numbers for his most productive Barca season to date, 2018-19, when he scored 14 times in 42 outings.
Antoine Griezmann believes his teammate is reaping the rewards of ‘taking care of himself’, while coach Ronald Koeman says he ‘loves’ Dembele and wants him to stay at Camp Nou beyond the end of the season.
The key for the Dutchman to achieve his wish, however, will be for Dembele to keep that comeback in form, and end up delivering when Barca need him most.
Saturday’s clash with third-placed Real Madrid will therefore tell us a lot about whether Dembele is finally fit, in every sense of the word, to lead his club into a new era.
Or if he is destined to be remembered as the flop signed by Barca in place of Mbappe.