The transfer window is officially open, and that means plenty of targets on the horizon. Throughout the summer, we’ll be publishing a series of quickfire interviews on Liverpool’s prospective targets, conducted with the journalists, correspondents, and pundits who know them best.
This edition will take a look at a long-time Liverpool target who’s suddenly popped back up on the transfer radar: Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembélé.
Giving us the scoop on the young Frenchman and his somewhat bizarre first season with the Catalan giants is Zach Lowy (@ZCalcio), owner of in-depth, multi-platform footballing network Breaking the Lines.
Describe Dembélé as a player. What are his notable strengths? Weaknesses?
He’s quick, good on either foot, phenomenal dribbler and has great vision. He needs to fine-tune his shooting and improve the defensive side of his game. I would also say he should iron out his crosses.
What kind of role does he play within Ernesto Valverde’s system?
Ousmane has played a variety of roles in Valverde’s team, even as a second striker and a left winger but I think his best role has been as a right winger. His linkup with Nélson Semedo has been superb there and I hope we can see them combine for the next decade at Barcelona.
Describe Dembélé’s first season at Barcelona. Has he struggled as much as many perceive? What do you feel have been the biggest obstacles to him replicating the success he had at Dortmund?
His first season was always going to be difficult because he is adjusting to one of the best teams in the world, if not the best, at such a tender age. He had to replace one of the best players in Europe, Neymar Jr., and I think the hype has done damage to him.
For example, Ousmane basically held out on strike, failing to turn up at Dortmund’s pre-season trainings — he did everything he could do to get a move to Barcelona. As a result, he didn’t have a pre-season preparation. This is a lanky French kid we’re talking about, who needs to improve his fitness to adjust to a league like Spain and England.
Instead of easing him in to the team with cameos, I think Valverde got too excited by his promise and started him a lot at first. Without proper preparation, Ousmane got injured for a long spell.
That was the plan. HOWEVER,
He came back earlier than expected, and got back into the starting XI, despite being half-fit, in January, earlier than the initial plan. Gets a hamstring injury vs. Getafe and gets sidelined for a month.
— Zach (@ZCalcio) March 5, 2018
I really don’t think he’s been bad at all, Barca fans want to see more of him as do I. He needs to work on a lot but the fact is, he just turned 21. He should be starting next season. So I guess fitness is the biggest thing that has hindered him.
Regarding the Liverpool links, do you see him as a good potential fit for Klopp’s system? The Premier League? Why or why not?
Liverpool’s front three is the best in football, it reminds me a lot of MSN under Luis Enrique. He would learn a lot under Klopp but if Ousmane does leave, I feel like it should be for a team where he’d start every game, like Arsenal or Valencia. I don’t think it’s wise to move to Liverpool, he has a better chance of starting in Barcelona.
They always say these lanky, Francophone wingers will struggle in England but the fact is, Hazard, Mahrez, and many more have come and destroyed PL fullbacks. There’s no doubt he’d succeed, this kid is a generational talent like Mbappé or Neymar, he’s fully committed to improving himself despite what the Spanish papers say, I have no doubt he will have a huge career.
Do you expect him to actually leave Barcelona? If so, where do you believe to be the most likely destination?
I don’t expect him to leave, but I didn’t expect Neymar to either. However, he doesn’t want the limelight or the money like Neymar did, I think he likes Barcelona and Messi, and there’s no chance, in my opinion, that we’d sell him after one season, but perhaps we could loan him. If we do loan him out, I would see him going to a Europa team like Arsenal where he could start week in and week out and not face Barcelona.
Do you feel he’s progressed at Barcelona? Stagnated? Regressed? Or is this injury-shortened season too small of a sample size?
He’s probably stagnated this season considering how good he was last season, but the fact is, even with his amazing 16/17, he wouldn’t have started on Barcelona in 16/17. Ousmane needs a bit of time and patience before he’s a Ballon D’Or candidate.