Are Barcelona making a mistake by keeping Ousmane Dembele?
Background photo: 1997, CC BY-SA 3.0
Summer arrived with strong rumors of both Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho departing Barcelona. The two were under intense scrutiny from Barca supporters due to failing to meet certain expectations.
While Barcelona have since offloaded Coutinho to Bayern Munich, they still have a headache named Dembele. Despite speculation, the Frenchman looks set to remain in Catalonia this season.
Barca could reunite with their prodigal son, Neymar, before the transfer window shuts on 2 September. That would be this summer's most notable deal anywhere in Europe. Los Cules fans would react differently. Some will be overjoyed to have the Brazilian back. Others won't forget it was his departure which landed their team in trouble.
After Neymar left for Paris Saint Germain in 2017, the Catalans quickly responded by signing Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund. Fast, young and highly talented, Barca believed he'd fit perfectly. However, his stint has produced more questions than answers.
Dembele had a torrid start to life at Camp Nou. He suffered an injury in his first La Liga game which kept him out for seven weeks. Two more setbacks ensured a truly miserably debut campaign. Scoring only four goals in all competitions, he was far below the standard.
Last season trod the same path. A brilliant winner against Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup hinted at Dembele's promise, but his injury nightmare soon caught up again. He scored 14 goals and provided 9 assists in 42 appearances. That failed to impress the Blaugrana faithful.
Barca supporters are not the patient type. They've branded Dembele a flop and urged the club to get rid. Those calls became even stronger when rumors of Neymar's return started gathering pace.
Coutinho did take fans' advice. The Brazilian now aims to kickstart his career in the Bundesliga after joining Bayern on a season-long loan four days ago. Given Dembele's struggle, it's a wonder he hasn't already left as well. Offering him a chance to fulfill his potential is admirable, but it should be remembered Barcelona have shown faith in the 22-year-old for two years.
To make matters worse, Dembele has suffered another injury. A hamstring strain rules him out for five weeks. His turmoil seems never-ending.
Dembele just isn't blending in at Barca. During a season the team needs to reassert their authority in Europe while also continuing domestic success, it'd be unwise to play a game of gambles.
Moreover, it's difficult to imagine what Dembele's role will be. He is already behind Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez. Should Neymar arrive, he'll sit fifth in the pecking order. That will drastically reduce his minutes, making the situation even more complicated.
It could also have a negative effect on Barcelona. Less involvement will ensure Dembele's stock falls tremendously. The La Liga giants will then struggle to get a decent fee for him should they decide to sell in the near future.
Barca must play it safe in handling Dembele. They have to recoup as much of his £112-million fee as possible. Otherwise, it will turn out an unforgettable mistake.