Dreamy Dembele is a Barcelona menace alongside Messi and Pique

Ousmane Dembele Barcelona 2018-19
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The French attacker has been linked with a Camp Nou exit in 2019, but his performance against Villarreal demonstrated again what he can offer

Ousmane Dembele cuts an unpredictable and, at times, detached figure but what is clear is that if Barcelona discover how to get the best out of the French winger on a regular basis, his troubled start to life in Catalunya will soon be forgotten.

A bright presence on the right flank in Barca’s 2-0 win over Villarreal on Sunday , Dembele was one of few players in the side who caused the visitors danger, helping send his team provisionally back top of the standings.

Dembele created Gerard Pique’s 33rd minute goal, sending a dreamy left-foot cross onto the defender’s forehead, with substitute Carles Alena adding another late on to make the game safe.

Besides Lionel Messi, whose exquisite pass for Alena led to the second goal, Dembele was the best player on the pitch.

One burst forward from the 21-year-old down the right saw him leave Alfonso Pedraza for dead, even though he couldn’t find Messi with his cross.

While Dembele does need to keep working on his end product, many will use some turnovers of possession as a stick to beat him with, when the truth is with players as dangerous and aggressive as him, they are inevitable.

Barcelona are renowned for their love of the ball but Dembele offers a different, more dynamic threat which can unlock games like this, breaking down solid defences.

Villarreal didn’t do much wrong at the back but the fact that Dembele can cross equally well with both feet gave Pedraza little chance of stopping the winger’s ball for Pique's goal.

Gerard Pique Barcelona Villarreal La Liga

Earlier in the game he pulled off several Cruyff turns in quick succession, wowing Camp Nou and endearing himself to supporters who are backing him even when local media appeared to turn against him.

This was the type of display Barcelona were hoping for when they bought Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017 for fee which could rise to €147 million (£130m/$167m). It was a performance laced with menace and enthusiasm, the latter of which he has been accused of lacking at times during his year and a half in the Catalan capital.

With his own team-mates Pique and Luis Suarez criticising him for a lack of professionalism, it seems crisis point had been reached for Dembele, who is constantly linked with moves away from the club.

But the Frenchman has pulled his socks up in the past fortnight, starting with his goal against Atletico Madrid which earned Barcelona a draw.

Dembele came on from the bench after having been left out of Ernesto Valverde’s previous squad, and rescued his team a point.

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That earned him a start against PSV in the Champions League, where he helped Barca seal qualification in first place for the last 16 from Group B, setting up Messi for the Argentine’s brilliant opener.

And his performance against Villarreal was another building block, another step in the right direction.

Dembele is young and has a long road ahead of him. There will be missteps and mistakes to come, no matter how good his intentions. But Barcelona know the rewards waiting for them if they help Dembele continue along his journey instead of leaving him by the wayside.