Thu. Oct 29th, 2020

Man Utd

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Manchester United can help Ousmane Dembele reignite his career

3 min read

If Ousmane Dembele joins Manchester United on deadline day, he will hope it’s a move that reignites his career. That is the reality for the 23-year-old, who has stagnated at Barcelona and looks in need of a fresh start.

It was only three years ago that he seemed like the brightest young talent in Europe. Barcelona paid £135.5million to prise him away from Borussia Dortmund, where he had emerged as an explosive, creative and often unplayable winger, still hardly out of his teens and with the world at his feet.

Dembel e is a little older now, and many expected him to be taking La Liga by storm at this stage of his career. Instead, his single season with Dortmund remains the zenith, the standard-setter.

That year seemed like the perfect combination of factors for Dembele: he had all the youthful exuberance in the world, no real expectations weighing him down, and he was in a team that clearly played to his many strengths.

His return of 21 assists for BVB in 2016/17 inevitably caught the eye of Europe’s biggest clubs, and he was soon off to Barcelona.

“Ousmane is an incredible player with a lot of talent,” said Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund manager during Dembele’s time at the club. “I enjoyed seeing him in every training session and he has extraordinary talent. He is lovely and charming but he is a little bit crazy.

“When he is focused, he can do whatever he wants. When I spoke with him for the first time, he told me, ‘I want to play at Barcelona’, and he is there now. He can do whatever he wishes but he has to be focused and improve every day.”

Unfortunately, focus appears to have been an issue at Barcelona. Repeated injury setbacks have hardly helped, but Dembele has never really looked settled or especially motivated in Catalonia.

He has turned up late to training on more than one occasion and has clearly failed to win over the club’s most recent managers. Quique Setien and now Ronald Koeman, who is said to view the France international as surplus to requirements.


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There are mitigating factors, then, but Dembele has, without doubt, underperformed at Barcelona. Aside from the 2018/19 season, when he managed 14 goals and six assists in all competitions, he has been a peripheral figure, unable to put together a prolonged spell of form.

Dembele has shown brief glimpses of his talent at the Camp Nou, but that was always going to be the case given his natural ability. For the price they paid, Barcelona wanted more than brief cameos.

It has seemed like Dembele has been playing almost in first gear, which suggests a new challenge would be the most beneficial thing for his career.

If United can secure his signature before the 11pm deadline tonight – even on a short-term loan – fans will start to dream about the possibilities. Regardless of the team’s recent form, an attacking quartet of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Dembele is exciting for United fans, and terrifying for opposition defenders.

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Whether it will work out like that remains to be seen. But it’s obvious that Dembele and Barcelona aren’t entirely compatible. Joining a team where he is valued again, where the pressure isn’t overwhelming, could be the best thing for the former Rennes winger. That’s something Manchester United can offer him that Barcelona can’t.

If he can stay fit and rediscover his focus, Dembele still has big things ahead.

As Lionel Messi put it in 2018: “On the pitch he’s a phenomenon. It’s up to him where he ends up. He could be one of the best.”

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