Berlin (AFP) – Fleet-footed winger Ousmane Dembele has finally been granted his dream move to Barcelona as Borussia Dortmund pocket a massive transfer fee for the precocious French talent.
Having forced Dortmund’s hand by going on strike and refusing to train, the German club were left with little choice but to suspend the temperamental 20-year-old and eventually sell him to the Spanish giants.
The 105 million euros ($125 million) set to be forked out by Barcelona, not including potential add-ons, on Friday dwarfs the 15m euros Dortmund paid Rennes for Dembele in July 2016.
The high-profile move on a five-year deal means Dembele will fill the boots of his idol, Neymar, as Barcelona look to bolster their attack after the Brazilian’s record move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Dembele joined Rennes’ academy when he was 13 and having made his first team debut in November 2015, his silky skills combined with sudden bursts of pace and lethal crosses quickly dazzled defences.
Barely into his teenage years at the time, Dembele said his inspirations were Lionel Messi and Neymar – the former will be his new team-mate and the latter is the man he is replacing.
“They’re great players. I try to follow their games and copy what they do in training,” said a youthful Dembele while still at Rennes.
The 2015/16 season saw Dembele make his breakthrough, scoring 12 times in 26 games for Rennes in the French league and setting up five goals.
– Ronaldo comparison –
In March 2016, he scored a hat-trick in the derby against Nantes in a 4-1 win just a couple months shy of his 18th birthday.
The French club’s then sports director Mikael Silvestre compared Dembele to Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I saw Cristiano Ronaldo arrive at the same age at Manchester United and Ousmane has the same characteristics which remind me of young Cristiano,” said Silvestre.
“A talent like Dembele doesn’t come along every season. You are lucky if you have one every 10 years.”
Dortmund beat off reported interest from Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich to sign Dembele.
The Frenchman announced his arrival with an audacious goal on Dortmund’s tour of China, before the 2016/17 season, when the then 19-year-old made a mockery of the United defence to fire home in a 3-0 win.
Despite the trauma of the April bomb attack on the Dortmund team bus, Dembele kept his composure to score when the Champions League quarter-final first leg was replayed a day later, resulting in a 3-2 defeat to Monaco.
Arguably his best and most important goal for Dortmund was his left-footed strike to seal a 3-2 victory at Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the German Cup.
In May’s final in Berlin, he gave Dortmund an early lead before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a second in a 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt as Dembele claimed the only title of his career so far.
Dortmund were able to hang onto Aubameyang, who attracted a reported offer of 80m euros from China’s Tianjin Quanjian after scoring 31 league goals last season to dethrone Robert Lewandowski as the Bundesliga’s top scorer.
But despite having a contract until 2021, Borussia were effectively powerless to dampen Dembele’s dreams once Barcelona came calling.
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