Moussa Dembele: Why Celtic face a battle to hold on to their rising star

They like Moussa Dembele in the green and white half of Glasgow.

All of his 13 goals have come in front of his own fans at Celtic Park, including a hat-trick in the Old Firm derby and 2 goals in the rollercoaster 3-3 draw with Manchester City in the Champions League.

The French striker’s electric start to life north of the border has made his signing, from Fulham on a free and Brendan Rodgers’s first at Celtic, seem like an audacious steal.

Celtic paid Fulham a nominal fee in compensation for the 20 year old but the striker’s return over his first 19 games has been priceless, the stand out deal of Rodgers’s first summer in which he has forged a squad that sits 4 points clear, unbeaten, at the top of the Scottish League and taking part in their first Champions League campaign in three years.

Dembele’s impact helped to guide Celtic back into Europe’s elite competition with a last minute winner against Astana and a goal in the home tie with Hapoel Be’er Sheva.



It was his three goals against Rangers, becoming Celtic’s first hat-trick scorer in an Old Firm game since Steve Chalmers in 1966, that truly endeared himself to the Bhoys’ fans however, giving birth to a star who seems likely, together with Leigh Griffiths who has 8 goals to his name this term, to fire Celtic to a sixth straight Scottish title.

“At Celtic I know I can win trophies and play European football, and it’s a massive club as well, so it feels good” said the Frenchman at his unveiling but just how many titles he will win in Scotland remains questionable.

“Everyone lives for Celtic and for me it’s unbelievable to play for a massive club like this” he said but just how long he will remain loyal to the declining lustre of Celtic is uncertain once the interest of the bigger sharks has been sparked, as his form both domestically and on the continent is sure to have done.


Progressing rapidly under the tutelage of Rodgers

Playing under Brendan Rodgers, a much respected coach in developing young players, and gaining experience of the Champions League was a sensible step for Dembele after plundering 17 goals in his first full season at Fulham in the Championship, but given the ease with how he has settled to life in Scotland, in an admittedly sub-standard league, it won’t be long before the Frenchman’s ambition starts making glances elsewhere.

The Frenchman endured a frustrating night on Tuesday as Celtic were beaten by a weakened Borussia Monchengladbach, leaving it unlikely that the Scottish club will even make it into the Europa League from a tough group, and he would have found it difficult to escape the reality that domestic dominance is the ceiling of Celtic’s scope.

Dembele linked well with Scott Sinclair, a partnership that has blossomed well in the comfort of domestic competition, on occasion but he was mostly kept quiet by German opposition that took ruthless advantage of two errors from Kolo Toure.

As he was kept at bay by Oscar Wendt and Julian Korb on a barren night that Celtic have had to become accustomed to on European nights as their own league declines in standard, Dembele would have been forgiven for believing that his talent deserves better.


A special talent

His blistering pace, composure and ability in the air, on show against Rangers and against Manchester City, as well as his clever movement and neat finishing with both feet which swept him two goals in a 6-1 thrashing of Kilmarnock, means he will find no shortage of suitors if he wishes to test himself more regularly at a higher level.

Rodgers insisted that his striker still has “some way to go” after watching him put Kilmarnock to the sword but the likes of Chris Sutton, who has compared Dembele to Didier Drogba, and Monchengladbach defender Andreas Christensen who has likened him to Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi, is warning that the eyes watching the forward stretch long beyond Celtic Park.

A penalty earned Dembele his 13th of the season against Motherwell but he terrorised the defence throughout, finishing the game unlucky not to have a hatful as he met an inform Craig Samson in the Steelmen’s goal.


No shortage of suitors

Rodgers may press the idea that Dembele is still progressing but it is doubtful he will learn too much more from routine victories against Scottish league fodder that only serve to highlight the gulf in quality when Celtic move onto the continental scene.

Tottenham nearly signed the striker last January, passing a medical with the London club before the move was cancelled as Spurs resisted a loan-back proposal, while Arsenal have also been linked.

His former team-mate Lewis Holtby, now at Hamburg, has warned that Dembele’s time at Celtic Park may now be short and as he sees his team collapse against stronger opposition he may well have a point.


Time not on Celtic’s side

Dembele has said the lure of working with Rodgers was the biggest factor behind his move north, but his form has been so strong and his progression so stark that it will not be a surprise to see the clubs that formerly chased him come back in.

Having sensibly chosen the next stage of his fledgling career, Dembele may soon find ambition and chances of sustained silverware call much louder.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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