If the rumours doing the rounds on Monday morning are to be believed, then Ousmane Dembele has been given one final chance to prove himself at Barcelona.
An exciting young talent, with skill and pace to burn, it was perfectly understandable why Barca decided the Frenchman was the right man to replace Neymar.
What they perhaps didn’t take into account was the player’s nonchalance, lack of work ethic and a perceived lack of respect for his team-mates and coaching staff.
The latter shouldn’t really have come as a surprise though. After all, this is the same player who went on strike at Dortmund to push through his move to the Camp Nou.
In so doing, it alienated the majority of his colleagues in the German side, but he wasn’t for turning.
His new start rapidly turned into a nightmare after an early season injury, and he never really recovered in his opening campaign. The abuse he received from so-called fans, however, was ill-intended at best, vile at worst.
Whoever was seen to ‘replace’ Neymar was on to a loser from the get-go, but lest we forget that the Brazilian didn’t have the best debut season in Catalonia either.
Still very young in footballing terms, it was - and still is - evident that Dembele has a lot to learn. Gerard Pique probably summed it up best when he said that the entire Barca squad need to remind the wide man that playing for Barcelona is a 24 hour a day shift.
Dembele, allegedly, has no qualms with staying up until all hours playing Fortnite and the like, but appears unable or unwilling to transfer that dedication to the training ground or the football pitch.
Barcelona fear gaming addiction ruining Dembélé's Camp Nou careerhttps://t.co/PLxQeJtYW6— AS English (@English_AS) November 17, 2018
Often sluggish and disinterested if he bothers turning up at all, he’s not really helped himself in that regard. Valverde, it seems, is getting as tired as French coach, Didier Deschamps, of all the excuses.
I was over in Barcelona a few weeks ago myself, and took in the Sevilla game with my two sons.
Once Dembele entered the fray, it was immediately apparent that he wasn’t up for the fight. Bearing in mind this was a ‘1st v 2nd’ fixture at that time, that’s an unforgivable attitude at this level.
He was awful, and that’s being polite. No wonder Luis Suarez tore into him on more than one occasion. Here was the Uruguayan, 10 years Dembele’s senior, chasing every ball, hustling every defender... The best Dembele could manage was a handful of half-hearted challenges.
His passing was way off and he didn’t even attempt to run back to help out in midfield. I have to admit, from a personal perspective, it was one of the worst individual displays I’ve seen from a Barcelona player in many a year.
The Camp Nou obviously agreed for they were ferocious in their condemnation.
Football supporters can be a forgiving lot, but at the very least they expect commitment and effort. It’s a pre-requisite in any team sport, let alone for an organisation such as Barca.
Simply put, you’ve got to be the best of the best, in all aspects.
Dembele has shown brief glimpses of his talent, but the fact that the column inches are chock full of stories about his living habits and the company he keeps says everything.
As does a reported mellowing of the club’s attitude towards Neymar.
A player who was described as the ‘new Figo,’ could be making a return next summer... with Dembele’s potential transfer fee going some way to funding the deal. That has to be the biggest kick in the teeth of them all for the Frenchman.
It’s worth noting that where Neymar eventually won the locals round was that he had substance behind all the flicks and tricks. For every ‘sombrero’ or ‘lambretta’ that the Brazilian tried, he would at least back up the showboating with a goal, assist, or purposeful piece of play. And boy did he work hard when it was necessary.
Frankly, you’re a liar if you read this and say that you always knew Neymar would come good, and I’m just as guilty as the next man of thinking he was a one-trick pony thinking of only himself. He made me eat my words and good for him.
Dembele probably never would’ve reached his level in any event and it’s folly to think otherwise, but he’s just not making any effort at all to unleash the particular set of skills that he possesses on a regular enough basis.
He’s had long enough now to get that massive chip off of his shoulder, so shape up Ousmane... or be shipped out!