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Ousmane Dembélé: The Barcelona enigma that never is?

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Time is running out for the Frenchman at Camp Nou

CD Leganes v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

No player quite divides opinion like Ousmane Dembélé. Some culés think the world of him, and are willing to wait out his fitness woes. Others feel as if he’s blown his chance; it’s one injury too many. The reasoned consensus probably lies somewhere in between. It isn’t exactly lights out for Dembélé’s Blaugrana career, yet. That point is not too far away, however.

Ousmane’s profile is clearly needed at the club. However, it becomes a matter of loss aversion for Barça, soon. How long before it becomes nonsensical for the club? As it stands, Dembélé is still young enough and proficient enough in his position. Moreover, Dembélé’s profile is needed badly. The club is stuck in a constant cycle of central play, and wide options are lacking. With a fit Dembélé, Barça could successfully implement wide overloads, and create space for Lionel Messi on the far side. With a fit Dembélé, Barça could afford to allow their full-backs some respite, and their defence wouldn’t be as stretched. Moreover, they could progress the ball vertically, instead of always looking for the horizontal option.

That is not to say that Dembélé doesn’t have problems. His occupation of space is suspect, at times, and he is often aloof to the run of play. Moreover, he is often wasteful in possession and seems to hold on to the ball too long. This is coupled with a general disregard for the movement of fellow team--mates, which ultimately results in ineffectual play. However, as mentioned earlier, the importance of his profile cannot be understated. With the breakout of Ansu Fati, Barça have a striker/inside forward, but still lack a versatile two-footed winger, which is exactly what Dembélé is. No one can actively occupy wide territory like him.

As a culé, one can only hope that Dembélé doesn’t end up as a “what could have been” player, one that is confined to a select few highlights and performances. He oozes talent, and had it not been for injuries, he could be staring at a very different career trajectory.

However, as a wise man (wink) once said, “it is what it is”.