Ousmane Dembélé. A name that had the football world pause for a second.
The youngster had a fantastic start to his career in France and soon after he went to Germany in search of a new challenge. He produced straight away in Dortmund helping the team to win the German Cup and when Barcelona came calling for a second time, the Frenchman couldn’t decline the Catalans again.
In the summer of 2017, Dembélé completed his dream move in a whopping €130 million transfer deal. At the time, he was the second-highest transfer in history and the speedster was proclaimed as the replacement for Neymar.
Many people projected that he will go right to the top and despite the high value of his transfer he will be able to live up to the expectation.
Few years forward the situation is not that bright and pink. He struggled with injuries, the club tried to sell him twice and with the approach of the summer transfer window and the horrifying financial state of the club, reports are circulating that potential buyers may be on the horizon again.
Ousmane Dembélé’s versatility and usage
Nowadays, it’s the versatility of a player is one of the important traits. A player that can be used in multiple positions and doesn’t affect his performance levels is a major positive for the team and especially useful when developing young talent.
Ousmane can play on numerous positions in the final third and, apart from his obvious quality as a wing player, he also can have an impact on the game from the No. 10 role. Very dynamic and rarely staying in the same position he allows the offence to operate fluidly and maintain a level of unpredictability regardless of his position on the field.
Even in that No. 10 position, he operates very aggressively and rarely dwells on the ball for long periods. His sharpness and ability to beat people in a 1v1 situation make him incredibly difficult to contain when he receives the ball in those central areas of the pitch.
His vision and ability on the ball allows him to play the through ball into space and create a goalscoring opportunity for his teammate.
If that isn’t enough, we can mention the mystery around his preferred foot. Rarely have we seen a player so well adept at playing with both feet. Very rarely, if ever, we see a player of that talent use both feet at the same level. His production numbers are staggering.
A true unicorn, somebody with the talent we can barely put together in a video game character.
Playtime and comparison
Once upon a time, Ousmane Dembélé was regarded as a talent beyond belief. A good physique and great understanding of the game have helped the youngster from Vernon to get the much-needed playtime young players need in the developmental stage. His first season in professional football is exciting, to say the least.
Many people have suggested that his injuries are the main reason why he hasn’t performed at his level consistently. And there is a fair argument to be made. However, even with his injuries compared to players under the age of 23 and the minutes and games they have played in, Ousmane is still one of the most experienced players for his age.
Players like Mbappe, Rashford, and Gabriel Jesus have more minutes recorded, however, it is up for debate which one has more experience at the highest level. Dembele played in three of the Top 5 leagues, Champions League latter stages, and has a World Cup winners medal. All before the age of 20.
Injuries and development
We need to address the injury situation also. He missed around 540 days, 85 games, two and a quarter league seasons through injury in his career. The hamstring has been a particular issue for him that has been bothering him since the start.
And despite those horrible statistics, he still has been producing on an exceptional level. His goals and assists are not the only way to measure his contribution but they are giving us an insight into what exactly he brings to the table. Compared to contemporary colleagues or legends like Ronaldinho, the raw stat line will show us that Ousmane Dembélé stands his ground pretty adequately.
From the beginning, it seems like Ousmane joined the club of his dreams, but the club did not want Dembélé for what he is. They wanted a ready-made winner that will gel with the hierarchy of the team. The club wanted Neymar 2.0 but instead, they bought on a project. A beautiful project that could end up fitting better than Neymar. Unfortunately, Barcelona proved in the last decade that developing projects are not their best trait. Quite the opposite.
Ousmane Dembélé has made everything possible on the pitch to earn his place in Barcelona, however, Barcelona hasn’t made much to earn the full potential of Ousmane Dembélé.