by Tom Lees - 26th March 2016
Teenage Stade Rennais forward Ousmane Dembélé is at present the talk of the footballing world, with his name linked to seemingly every major club in European football. Currently there are suggestions that a big money move to Bayern Munich has been agreed although this is still to be confirmed by either club and the player has denied that any deal has been reached. So who is Ousmane Dembélé and why is he so sought after?
Born in Vernon, France, Dembélé is a product of the Stade Rennais academy having left his hometown club Évreux at the age of just 13. His progress in the youth ranks was impressive and closely monitored by scouts from around Europe, but until this season his playing time was restricted to occasional appearances for the Rennais second team. Even while playing for the second string, Dembélé was still attracting transfer speculation from around Europe. Red Bull Salzburg were reportedly hoping to secure his signature and Patrick Vieira was often seen on scouting missions while under contract with Manchester City. No move occurred as the player was encouraged to learn his trade at Rennais. He would sign professional terms with the club in October 2015 after some lengthy negotiations, and since then has burst into the first team setup and become a massive star of French football.
10 goals in fifteen Ligue 1 appearances for Rennais, combined with some exceptional performances have seen the youngster compared with Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. Rennais adviser Mikaël Silvestre has even gone as far as to say that Dembélé will go on to feature on the Ballon d'Or shortlist. All of this is extreme high praise for a player that did not start playing first team football until this season, and that coupled with the high profile interest in the youngster from the giants of the game is sure to add huge pressure in his pivotal years of development. However, his performances for Rennais suggest that he will thrive on the pressure as he looks to become a star.
Able to play on either flank or in an attacking midfield role, Dembélé is lightning quick and comfortable dribbling at pace with the ball at his feet. He is two footed and skilful with a fine eye for goal and has an ability to turn quickly at pace that is really eye catching and often leaves defenders flat footed. It’s his dribbling ability that is the real stand out feature in his game, and makes the youngster one of the most exciting prospects in the game. He has a number of assists already this season which shows his ability to pick a pass and composure and confidence under pressure. A criticism that has been levelled at the youngster even while in the youth academy was his small stature and the feeling that he wouldn’t be able to shine in the professional ranks, so far this has not proven to be an issue as Dembélé has silenced his critics with breath-taking form.
Internationally Dembélé has featured for France up to Under 19 level and has recently been included in the Under 21 setup, with form continuing as it has it won’t be long before he is fast tracked into the full French national team, especially as he is eligible to represent Mali. It looks set to be a massive summer for the young forward, a big money move away from Rennais looks inevitable with Bayern, Manchester United, Barcelona and Arsenal just some of the clubs mentioned as looking to secure his services. He has good people behind him giving him advice though and they’ll be sure to keep his feet on the ground and remind the youngster that playing time is key. The future for Dembélé is very exciting, it’s too early to say if he’ll live up to the hype but it’s so far so good and a continuation on his current path will see him become a superstar.