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Friday September 13 2019
Barcelona should sell Ousmane Dembele to fund Neymar return

Despite Ousmane Dembele's undoubted talent, question marks over his injury record ensures logic to Barcelona's pursuit of Neymar, argues Cillian Shields.

“He is better than Neymar,” Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said on several occasions when asked aboutOusmane Dembélé. But, despite his superior talent to the Brazilian trickster in the eyes of the Catalan club’s president, the French forward is once againout of action, this time for five weeks, following another injury to his hamstring muscle on the opening day of the season.

This currenthamstring injury is on his left femoral bicep; a repeat of that suffered last March, and mirroring that sustained in May on hisother leg. It is also the same muscular injury that cut tragically short his first La Liga start, which came against Getafe in September 2017, and kept him out of action for 110 days and 20 matches. Following that injury, he only managed to feature in four games before doing further damage to his muscles, keeping him out for eight more matches.

On the last day of his first season in Camp Nou, he lasted 53 minutes before being taken off from damage to his right ankle, a problem that would return to his other foot in his second season and sideline him for four matches more. In total, injuries to that exact muscle have prevented Dembélé from playing in 26 matches for Barcelona to date, and likely another four this time round. To find out how this will impact on the Spanish league title and other competitions, sbobet cover all the latest odds reflecting developments.

Barcelona spent an initial €105m (with another €40m in add-ons) to get him to the Camp Nou. He was supposed to be a long-term solution to the Neymar-shaped hole in their team when the Brazillian star left for Paris Saint-Germain. However, so far Dembélé has not been able to convince fans that he can be a star, let alone be a starter. 

The talent that Dembélépossesses is unquestionable, and the will on behalf of the club to continue to work on his fitness problems must be strong after the winger displayed on multiple occasions last season the difference he can make to this Barcelona team. When sprinting at top pace, nobody in the squad (bar possibly Nelson Semedo) can keep up with him, and nobody can control the ball at such high speeds the way he can so seamlessly, shifting possession between both feet with magical ease. Dembélécan offer this already star-studded team an option unparalleled to the rest of the squad; a speedy outlet that can run at opposition defenders, beat them regularly, and create space like few teammates can.

But patience must be wearing thin within the Camp Nou medical team. This is yet another muscular injury on a player that continually seems to suffer from this type of setback. Naturally with Dembélé, attention turns to his lifestyle when trying to find answers, given how often this type of injury occurs and how it can occur. 

It’s widely understood that the former Borussia Dortmund starlet doesn’t take the best care of himself off the pitch. At times last campaign, Dembéléhad highly publicized troubles with oversleeping, leading him to reportedly miss training after reportedly staying up all night playing video games and eating junk food. Last November he missed a training session, citing a gastroenteritis issue that convinced few. On the day, club officials had no idea of his whereabouts and had to send an official to his home to check on him. He was left out of the squad for the following game as a punishment. A month later, he showed up for training two hours late, and was forced to go through his paces alone.

It is only a matter of time before questions are asked linking his lifestyle and behaviour with his frequent absences from the Barca team. If a player doesn’t look after their body, then their body will become more vulnerable to damage and injury. For all the undoubted talent he has, it is completely worthless if Dembélé is unable to prepare his body to be on a football pitch when he is needed.

The club have tried in many ways to get the player to take a more professional attitude, between mediations with club officials and interventions from senior teammates like Leo Messi and Gerard Piqué. There is enough of a gem in the rough to make it worthwhile to keep working on him, hoping he can apply a better attitude to his lifestyle and care more about his career.

Despite this, his third season in La Liga has not gotten off to a good start. After coming off the pitch in Bilbao for the 2019/20 La Liga season opener, reports in local media say that Barcelona doctors wanted to examine the extent of the damage to his leg immediately following the game, but the winger refused an examination, insisting to doctors he only had cramps before jetting off to Rennes in France to visit his mother. The board of the club are said to be surprised at the player’s unwillingness to cooperate with team doctors.

While his talent is not in question, his mentality and commitment certainly are. Rumours were rife all summer that the decision-makers at Barcelona were concocting some sort of deal to bring Neymar back after a two-year spell in Paris.

Given that the Blaugrananeed to sell if they are to buy again, manoeuvring an exit for Dembéléin any deal for Neymar may have been in their best interests, as there would be little point in keeping two of the world’s most expensive players on their books that would play in more or less the same position on the field, assuming Dembéléis fit enough to be on the field. Undoubtedly, as always with Neymar, a media circus constantly surrounds him during transfer windows, and the question of a return to the Camp Nou will likely arise again next January and next summer.

If Barcelona are unable to convince Dembéléto lift his commitment levels and begin to shake off these same injuries that keep persisting, then selling the Frenchman before his value drops too low might be their best long-term course of action, even if he is “better than Neymar,” as Bartomeu says.

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