Opinion The opinion Jaime Rincon
It is difficult, with the data available, to make a case to defend Ousmane Dembele staying at Barcelona. In three seasons he has played 75 matches, suffered countless injuries and all for the large outlay of more than 100 million euros in transfer payments. He came to fill the void left by Neymar, yet has done little so far. His physical fragility and bad habits off the pitch, added to his constant penchant for turning up late for training or showing little professionalism whilst recovering, has inevitably put him on the market.
Now, though, Dembele is possibly one of the three players with the most natural talent and technical quality that the Barcelona squad have right now. When he has been able to chain together a number of matches in a row without injury, he has shown glimpses of his incredible class. Barcelona don’t have an abundance of stars and putting him on the market right now means losing another one and then convincing another club to sell one of their important players at a reasonable price to replace him. This argument won’t stand, because Memphis Depay is neither an important player nor is he reasonably priced.
Dembele, remember, is 23 years old. He is adept with both feet and has better close control in his dribbling than almost any other Barcelona player. From a tactical perspective, Koeman‘s 4-2-3-1 seems tailor-made for the Frenchman. The task Koeman had was to turn the French forward into a player committed to defensive tasks that force opposing wingers to make inside runs with the ball.
Barcelona have opened the exit door for Dembele yet Philippe Coutinho stays. What has the Brazilian shown to be the first-choice? What of Antoine Griezmann? Has he shown better production than Dembele without considering the latter’s injury troubles? The former Atletico Madrid forward has 15 goals and four assists in 49 games whilst Dembele has 19 goals and 16 assists in 75 matches. Coutinho has accumulated 20 goals and 13 assists in 77 matches. This is important data too, right?
Receiving a fee of 70m euros (I’ll believe it when I see it) for Dembele sounds like heavenly music to those in power at the Camp Nou. They will reduce the wage bill significantly and recover a significant part of an investment that appeared lost. Economists will welcome the sale, whilst statisticians will also surely applaud a possible transfer. However, the romantics among us who enjoy how different players approach football will feel a huge sense of regret if Dembele is allowed to leave and shine elsewhere.