This June, Ousmane Dembele will enter the final year of his contract at Barcelona. The current deal is viable until the summer of 2022 and this puts the young Frenchman at a crossroads of sorts. On one hand, a player who plans to stay with the team shouldn’t exactly be put in this situation in the first place. On the other, if Barcelona are to sell him, now is the last chance to do so if there’s to be at least some profit coming from it.
Considering how the club is still in a dire financial situation, this is a huge decision they have to make. Dembele has also been a very big investment on their part and a player who has what it takes to mark the club’s future as well as the present. However, while we’ve been seeing glimpses of that player, Dembele still has a long way to go before fully convincing everyone.
That’s exactly what makes the situation so complex. The past couple of weeks have been rather impressive and the Frenchman is slowly but steadily growing both on and off the pitch. Now we’re seeing a much more mature player; one that is motivated, fit and eager to prove himself. In other words, Dembele has grown immensely and it’s reflecting positively on his performances.
He went from a player whose injuries threatened to outnumber the number of games in which he’d featured for the club to a player Ronald Koeman can count on week in, week out. The stats definitely confirm that thesis. Dembele has played 28 games so far in 2020/21 and has accumulated a total of 1740 minutes across that tally.
Koeman: "Dembélé provides us a lot of good things. One-on-one occasions, depth, speed." pic.twitter.com/jpTuWPJOvB— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) January 31, 2021
Compare that to the meagre 492 minutes in 2019/20 and much better but still inconsistent 2503 in 2018/19 and the results are palpable. He’s already eclipsed last season’s tally by a long shot and is on course to do the same with the 18/19 and we’re just half-way through the current campaign. In that sense, we have to commend him and say that yes, both on a psychological and fitness level, he’s making strides in the right direction.
However, there are always two sides to the same coin. So far this season, Dembele has scored six goals and assisted four more on the side. In his last ‘full’ season, back in 18/19, he registered 14 and eight respectively across all competitions. This could mean that at this rate, we won’t see such a big return on this campaign unless he seriously steps it up.
Granted, with him, it’s not always about the final product. Dembele brings a dose of chaos into Barcelona’s usual stability and calmness in possession. His pace, unpredictability and constant threat on the flank mean the Catalans’ attack is that much more dangerous for the opposition.
So the numbers can be deceiving when it comes to his contribution. Take their last game against Cadiz CF, which unfortunately ended in a draw. Dembele’s gravity on the right and his movement were causing the guests worlds of problems as he weaved through their defence time and time again. But while that was certainly impressive, it also revealed some of his other flaws.
Dembele is a powerful player when fit and ready but his final product can be lacking. Barcelona kept getting into good situations but sadly with no results to show for. The Frenchman himself was among the players to miss big chances that afternoon which, combined with the final defensive error from his countryman, meant victory slipped through their fingers yet again.
So despite finally staying fit and playing regularly, Dembele’s output is still below par for such a gigantic signing. He is not alone in this, of course, and he shouldn’t and won’t exclusively be blamed for Barcelona’s mishaps. But the magic and dazzling runs have to amount to something. Otherwise, they’re just aesthetics that won’t exactly win you games.
It may be a harsh verdict but in this transitional period where Barcelona are aching for results, players must finally step up and start pulling their weight. It is phenomenal how Dembele has improved his fitness levels and mentality. That part of his development must be commended. But unfortunately, we still require a lot more from the young Frenchman.
That being said, he is 23 years old, which means there is still room for improvement. However, it also means he’s entering his prime years and now is the time to finally turn his god-given talent into something more. We keep saying he has the potential to become world-class because there are glimpses constantly proving this to be true.
But the talent alone won’t cut it. While he does seem to be putting more effort in as of late, we’re yet to witness true results. We’re dazzled with his moves because frankly, he’s often the only spark we have. That in itself is a part of a much bigger problem.
Sadly, the alternative to grooming him into the world-class winger Barcelona need is equally as challenging. If they are to sell him, it needs to happen this summer. Although, we have to remember the length of his remaining contract is sure to hamper any potential financial gains and the club can forget getting anything close to what they had invested in him.
Juventus, United, Bayern, and Chelsea are all on the list of clubs that would want to sign Ousmane Dembélé in case Barcelona would let him go for a feasible price.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) January 22, 2021
— Sport pic.twitter.com/tn5P0afpGA
Would it be enough to ensure funds for a worthy replacement? Can they hope to find someone better on the market who’s both available (in other words, cheap) and good enough? These questions make their decision even riskier.
But transfers are always nothing more than a gamble. You can do your research and everything could fit on paper but the reality can often be deceiving. Such is the nature of this sport.
“I think Ousmane Dembele deserves special treatment. You have to take care of such great players. I really like to see Dembele well. He has been settling down, is in spectacular form, and is mentally strong as well,” Joan Laporta told Gerard Romero recently. And it’s true, Dembele deserves special treatment because he is a special player.
But how long do Barcelona plan to give him to break out of his shell and reach for the stars? The clock is ticking and they have to make a huge decision in the coming months.
Dembele himself has a big task ahead as well – prove to the Azulgranas he’s worthy of staying at the Camp Nou. Prove that the world-class player we all know is deep within will come out eventually.
If he can do that, there’s no doubt a bright future is ahead of both him and Barcelona.
A significant week in Barcelona for Lionel Messi’s future
It is a topic that gets the football world giddy. The fantasies of Lionel Messi playing in the Premier League, the formation of another star-studded front three alongside Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe, and for the romantics, a return to Argentina is set in their hearts.
After the infamous events of the summer of 2020, now more than ever, the biggest legend of FC Barcelona looks closer than ever to leaving.
Many Barça fans feel that it could be a good thing that the six-time Ballon D’or winner leaves, bringing up the point that the Catalan side needs a hard restart next season and the idea of building a team around a 33-year-old does not seem logical, as it only benefits the near future.
This is a valid point and most likely comes from those who want not only the best for Barca but Messi as well, as Cúlers are not ignorant to the fact that the club cannot promise their beloved number ten the fifth Champions League trophy he craves in its current situation.
However, in an ideal world, Barça fans would want Messi to stay and win his fifth European Cup wearing Blaugrana and if that is to happen, the week that went by is the only decider on course for the club and player alike.
The Copa Del Rey comeback
In the interview with Jordi Évole on LaSexta last December, Lionel Messi stated that he “wanted to keep competing to win trophies.”
Two weeks ago, that desire for this season looked unlikely. Atletico Madrid had a sizeable lead over the Catalans in La Liga, Paris Saint-Germain built up a 1-4 lead in the Champions League, and Sevilla had a 2-0 advantage in the Copa del Rey.
The first of these tasks was addressed on Wednesday night, in what turned out to be a memorable night in the history of FC Barcelona. A 94th minute Gerard Pique header sent Barça into extra time, where Martin Braithwaite completed the comeback to send the Catalans through to the final 3-2 on aggregate.
The chance to win another trophy would no doubt have pleased Messi but it is the story of the match that will help keep the Argentine at the club next season.
If Messi stopped and looked around the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, he would have seen determination and heart from his teammates to keep going to the final whistle, an abundance of youthful talent performing at a level beyond their years, and world-class players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen ready to step up when certain challenges emerged.
Throughout one night, all these combined into a sort of presentation to the Argentine, exhibiting the future of FC Barcelona and where the team is headed.
There is no denying that the gap between Barcelona and Europe’s elite is still large, but this performance showed the signs Messi has called for and that is something that can be noted down for the future.
The perfect Liga weekend
Looking ahead to the weekend, the second of Barcelona’s comeback missions received an encouraging boost.
The Catalan side were looking to go 16 games unbeaten in La Liga in a match against twelfth place Osasuna and a win would not only see them extend this run but close the gap on Atletico Madrid to just two points, albeit with two games in hand.
The importance of this weekend lied in Atletico’s game as they face city rivals Real Madrid. In an ideal world, Barça fans would hope that the spoils are shared in El Derbi allowing the Blaugrana side to gain points on both Madrid clubs.
Barcelona’s prayers were catered to, and not only did the Catalan giants pick up three ugly, yet important points from their encounter against Osasuna, the capital outfits had to settle for a draw. Playing the angel’s advocate, even if Atleti had come away with the three points, it would essentially narrow the title race to just two teams considering Los Colchoneros gap at the top.
From Lionel Messi’s point of view, winning the La Liga title from the position Barça found themselves in a few weeks back would be a huge encouragement to stay for another season, especially if it is accompanied by the Copa del Rey. The Argentine has been part of teams that let leads slip over the last three seasons and to flip the script on that, would ultimately show progress.
The Presidential election
The final act of the week was the 2021 Presidential Election, where the next president of FC Barcelona was chosen on Sunday night. Joan Laporta, Victor Font, and Toni Freixa were the three candidates fighting for Barça’s top spot, and all have addressed the situation of Lionel Messi throughout their campaigns.
Joan Laporta had emerged as the favourite for a second spell, and like everyone suspected, the Spaniard swayed the elections, coming on top as the winner. Ideally, it would have a significant impact on the future of La Pulga, as Messi showed up to vote for the elections for the first time in his life. In fact, Laporta went on to claim that Leo congratulated him on the night. His renewal will be one of the many hurdles Laporta will have to jump over.
Throughout the presidential campaign, it has been rumoured that Messi will not stay if Joan Laporta does not win. Laporta himself fuelled these rumours on Tuesday during the last of the Presidential debates.
The Spaniard stated, “If I don’t win, I am sure that Leo will not stay at Barcelona”.
“If I don’t win, I am sure that Leo will not stay at Barcelona. “Messi will weigh up the offer we make him. I’m convinced that if the other candidates win, Messi will not remain at Barcelona. He wasn’t happy during Freixa’s time on the board.”Joan Laporta in the presidential debate
If these feelings are believed to be true, the future of Lionel Messi could take a dramatic twist on Sunday.
Having said all this, Lionel Messi’s future could come down to one simple desire, to win a fifth European Cup. At 33 years old, the Argentine does not have time on his side in this pursuit, and it could be years before Barcelona can compete for Europe’s top prize again.
With ready-made teams such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain waiting on the side-lines, the final decision in June could come down to this week — if this week does not make it for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, there is little chance anything else will.