Ousmane Dembele is an enigma. He is a mystery that Barcelona are yet to decipher. Since joining from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017 for €105m, he presents a confusing case for the club and the fans alike.
On one hand, people marvel at goals like the one he scored against English giants, Tottenham at the Nou Camp last season. On the other hand, they would hang their heads when look at reports about the Frenchman arriving late for training and a lack of professionalism.
The former Stade Rennes man has missed a total of 46 games through injury ever since he arrived at the Nou Camp. That is another reason for the frustration that surrounds him.
One thing that can’t be doubted is his ability. When on song, the 22-year-old can play with defenses at will. Despite having played only 17 games in his first season, Dembele was involved in ten goals (per Transfermarkt).
In all competitions last season, he scored 14 goals and made nine assists in 42 appearances. That isn’t a bad stat for a player who suffered three separate injuries last season. It is a good response to all those who call him ‘unprofessional’ and ‘ill-disciplined’ all the time.
Spotlight has been shone on his issues for a while now but nothing has improved. More than anything, Barcelona knew about Dembele’s discipline issues before they signed him. It was almost public knowledge that the then Dortmund man trashed his rented apartment before he left.
In an interview Massimo Mariotti- Dembele’s coach at BVB, gave to SPOX, he said:
“Everyone came to me and asked where he was. I did not know it either. So I tried to reach him and his cousin, but that was in vain. They were both unavailable for three days. Somehow I had guessed at the time that he is no longer in Dortmund at all. I went to his house and found out that he went to France with his mother in the morning.”
The dressing room is often unhappy with his ways and the club knew it all along. Despite all that, they shelled out a record fee for him. Even when he left Rennes, he was criticised for behaving poorly when he asked to leave. His issues are very much reminiscent of Diego Maradona when he arrived at the Nou Camp in 1982.
It is certainly always tough for a teenager to adapt to a new culture. It is a new life and not everyone can learn to live alone in new surroundings. But that isn’t really the case for Dembele, considering how these cases have come up at every single club.
If Barcelona had a manager like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp or Mauricio Pochettino, a negative influence would have been eliminated. Guardiola got rid of a negative influence like Ronaldinho in no time, irrespective of how good he was.
Pochettino got rid of Andros Townsend, who had been training poorly and had been behaving unprofessionally with the coaches.
Barcelona have already tried to get rid of Dembele in their deal for Neymar but the move never materialised. Clubs are wary of the negative influence Dembele might bring and they are cautious about signing a player like him.
This is a dressing room that has taken pride in having characters like Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique. Dembele’s case presents a situation similar to that of Saido Berahino and how his career met a demise due to his inability to arrive on training in time.
It has been over two years and Dembele’s issues continue to linger with no improvement shown at all. It is certainly his fault but it again, brings to light how Barcelona prefer to go about in the transfer window these days.
Malcom left for Zenit this past summer. It took a season for Barcelona to let him go. It is easy to sell players like him. This isn’t because he is a better player. But because he’s a better professional. The football industry thrives on hardworking professionals.
As things stand, Barca have a problem on their hands in Dembele. Leonardo never wanted him at PSG initially. Clubs with thorough sporting directors will never sign a player like him. His talent can’t be questioned but Dembele is turning too old for tantrums.