FC Barcelona: The Ousmane Dembele Conundrum

Barcelona is in some gloomy, muddy waters with regards to Ousmane Dembele.

Do they offload the Frenchman who cost them a world-record fee or keep the faith? In any case, the Blaugrana are stacked – seemingly a lose-lose situation.

When Dembele arrived Spain from Germany through France in the summer of 2017, not many envisaged Neymar’s instant replacement. Although the young Frenchman commanded a mighty outlay, faithful believed the Brazilian’s shoe size was way too enormous for any 20-year-old, especially one with barely two years of top-flight exposure.

In terms of prodigious talent, Dembele was immensely blessed. He had the innate skills to become as prosperous as his predecessor. His astonishing dribbling skills and drive are simply phenomenal. In a Barca team that places great emphasis on possession, his ability to draw out markers, then duck past them meant wreckage to defences.

Dembele isn’t just exceptional with the ball, he posses lightning pace too. With Neymar now gone, he was supposed to give the Blaugrana a counterattacking edge with the manner he flashes past defenders, penetrating the final third with ease. He could lay off killer passes or bury them himself with any foot.

However, these traits have hardly been spotted at Camp Nou. Although the early signs were impressive, a succession of injuries and dip in form crippled them. Two muscular injuries in quick succession cost him five months last term. It’s difficult to break into any squad after repeated absences. At Barcelona, forget it.

The arrival of Philippe Coutinho didn’t help matters. Of course, the Brazilian with more flair, grit and experience would always get the nod. Malcom, Arturo Vidal and Arthur have further buried his chances. The result is just seven La Liga starts. Worst, the 21-year-old hasn’t been spotted around the first team since the Champions League stalemate at Inter Milan.

Dembele’s personal conduct and lifestyle have been questioned. He skipped two days of training last week, supposedly due to a stomach bug, causing Ernesto Valverde to leave him out of the squad for the defeat to Real Betis. He had already come under recent scrutiny when he was left out of the first leg against Inter for arriving late to a team meeting.

Issues over immaturity prompted Gerard Pique to say that Dembele needed to “understand that football is a 24-hour job and he has to live accordingly” and caused the club’s general manager, Pep Segura, to meet with Dembele’s representatives last week. Luis Suarez echoed, “I think he needs to focus more and be more serious on some points.”

Dembele’s body language is that of utter frustration. He appears hell-bent bent on forcing a move this winter. Barca, themselves, are equally bored of hoping. However, there are complications to any potential deal.

MARCA claims that the champions will have to pay Dortmund the 40 million euros as a guarantee if they sell the France international precipitously against his opening contract that is valid until June 30, 2022. While nobody at the club denied the rumours, a spokesperson said: “The scenario of a possible sale is not being contemplated at this moment.”

What should Barca do? Sell Dembele for around £80m and then donate about 50 per cent to the Germans? Or just keep hold of him and let him rot?


Written by Toby Prince

Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby

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