As far as French wonderkids go, Kylian Mbappe has dominated the media attention this summer. Linked with all manner of moneyed elite clubs, the furore surrounding his future has seen another brilliant young French winger, Ousmane Dembele, fall by the wayside, but his talent should not be ignored.
Aged just 20, Dembele shone as France beat England 3-2 in Paris earlier this month. Such was his searing pace, he gained viral fame for easily outsprinting the notoriously quick Tottenham full-back Kyle Walker, and scored the third goal after, coincidentally, being set up by the precocious Mbappe.
THE CLUBS THAT WANT DEMBELE
Dembele has the world at his feet. Real Madrid and Barcelona are both interested, per hundreds of reports, and the similarities with Mbappe are striking. Both have just one season under their belt in their respective league, but have each performed strikingly well, earning plaudits for both their pace and clinical edge, leading to rumours of mega-money moves.
Dortmund signed Dembele last summer, the winger signing a five-year contract following his move from Rennes, after scoring 12 goals in 25 Ligue 1 games and providing five assists. So spectacular were his displays that he was voted the best young player in France.
Tottenham had been heavily linked with a move for Dembele, along with Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Bayern Munich but Dortmund moved quickly to tie up a contractual agreement, and are now reaping the rewards.
OUSMANE DEMBELE'S CAREER STATS
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DEMBELE'S CAREER SO FAR
Dembele was born in 1997 and started his career at the age of seven at Evreux, prior to joining Rennes. Unease circulates the circumstances of his move to Dortmund, however. The Guardian claim Dembele was in dispute with a number of agents and representatives, each of whom attempted to influence his future decisions.
Badou Sambague, widely recognised as his first agent, initially claimed that Dembele’s mother would make the ultimate decision.
“She is who will decide Ousmane’s future,” he said in March of 2016. “When he wanted to leave last summer, his mother told him she wanted him to stay at Rennes and sign his first professional contract. In the end he had no choice.”
As he sparkled in the first-team, however, Rennes realised that they could lose Dembele for a fraction of his true value, having included a €5 million release clause in a contract signed in 2015. It is alleged that they attempted to intervene, asking the player to sign a new contract not containing a release clause, and to hire a new agent, though they were unable to persuade him.
Dembele subsequently met with Jurgen Klopp, and was also heavily coveted by United. He had a phone conversation with Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri, too, but was unimpressed by his poor grasp of French. However, Dortmund appeared the only club that Rennes were willing to do business with.
Reports suggest that the Bundesliga club – the only side willing to go above the previously stated €5m clause – agreed to pay €15m for his services, though the official figure remains undisclosed.
WHO IS DEMBELE'S AGENT?
While Dembele’s murky past with agents could yet complicate any summer move, The Sun reports that Mino Raiola could soon add the teenager to his burgeoning list of high-profile clients.
Raiola represents the likes of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Gianluigi Donnarumma. Having negotiated an £89m move for Pogba last summer, both Lukaku and Donnarumma could be on the move this time around, with Dembele likely to follow suit if the pair link up.
Raiola is famously wary of doing business with Barcelona, however, after previously facilitating the doomed move of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Camp Nou in 2009.
That would appear to rule out a move to Catalonia if the Italian starts negotiating on Dembele’s behalf, while Real continue to focus their efforts on both keeping Cristiano Ronaldo and signing Mbappe.
An intriguing summer awaits for Dembele. Clearly a star at Dortmund, he would command a huge fee, and also bring both pace and penetration to any team lucky enough to persuade the German club to sell.
While Mbappe hogs the headlines, Dembele may well prove to be just as smart a buy.