Ousmane Dembele to PSG: Barcelona are well rid of the worst signing in the club's history

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The Frenchman's potential has never been up for debate, but his attitude has always been a disgrace, as underlined by his decision to leave for PSG

At the end of July, both Mundo Deportivo and Sport claimed that Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain were at "war" over Ousmane Dembele - which felt a little strange, given the Frenchman is not a player worth fighting for, at least not from the Blaugrana's perspective.

PSG's interest was understandable, of course. Dembele is an immensely talented footballer. If Luis Enrique can get him fully fit and firing, the 26-year-old still has it inside him to become a genuine superstar. Xavi knows that too, and is said to have pleaded with the player to "think of Neymar", who has long regretted quitting Camp Nou for Parc des Princes in 2017.

"I am a little disappointed with Dembele," the Barca boss admitted after the friendly with AC Milan. "He has decided to go to PSG. There is nothing we can do."

Some Blaugrana fans have been left enraged by Dembele's perceived betrayal - and that makes sense too, given the majority of them stood by the winger throughout a desperately trying six-year spell at Camp Nou. The mere fact he'd already agreed personal terms with PSG weeks ago seriously stung - even if allegations of a lack of loyalty are arguably a little harsh in light of reports that Barcelona unsettled Dembele by trying to use him as a makeweight in their efforts to sign Kylian Mbappe.

However, fury should soon give way to relief - because Barca really are well rid of one of the most frustrating figures in football.

  1. 'The boy is special'
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    'The boy is special'

    Dembele's ability has long been obvious. Former Rennes sporting director Mikael Silvestre described him as the most naturally gifted teenager he'd seen since his time playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United, Thomas Tuchel said it was a pleasure to watch his "amazing skills" in training at Borussia Dortmund, while Martin Braithwaite admitted that he was blown away by Dembele when he joined Barcelona in 2020.

    "I have never seen someone with his talent. I'm serious!" the dumbfounded Dane told Tot Costa. "Messi is something else but, after him, I haven't seen any player like Dembele. The boy is special."

    But he's also proven terribly unprofessional and horribly inconsistent.

  2. 'No structure around him'

    'No structure around him'

    There were concerns over Dembele's attitude even before he arrived in Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105 million (£90m/$116m), with the Frenchman accused of trashing the apartment he had been renting in Germany from Jurgen Klopp.

    It's also worth remembering that while former Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu publicly claimed that Dembele was better than the man he had effectively replaced, Neymar, the club were actually considering cutting their losses on the forward as early as October 2018.

    By that stage, it was clear that Dembele was dreadfully ill-disciplined. He was repeatedly late for team meetings, with his tardiness attributed to his fondness for playing video games until the early hours of the morning, while his diet was a disgrace for a professional athlete. One source told GOAL of countless fast food cartons found at his house, while a healthy fish dish prepared by his former chef had been discarded.

    "It's a messy life," Michael Naya told Le Parisien. "I've never seen alcohol but he doesn't respect the rest periods at all. There's no structure around him." And his lifestyle was viewed as a key contributing factor to the umpteen muscular injuries Dembele suffered throughout his time at Barca.

  3. 'I didn't work has hard as I do now'

    'I didn't work has hard as I do now'

    Even Dembele has confessed that he was "very frail" during his first few seasons in Catalunya because of his poor diet, but insisted in 2022 that he had seen the error of his ways and completely changed his mindset

    “Now I see that it's essential to work hard on and off the pitch,” he told Sport and Mundo Deportivo. "The injuries came because, when I was 20, I didn't work as hard as I do now. It's clear that if you don't work, you can't enjoy football, you're not going to play much and you're going to get injured. Now, I'm stronger."

    He's not, though. In any sense. Dembele missed three months of last season with a hamstring problem and even when he was available, he sparkled only sporadically, scoring just five goals in 25 Liga appearances.

    He was a starter for France at the 2022 World Cup and he tormented several full-backs with his genuinely breath-taking bursts of speed - but, as always with Dembele - there was so little end product. In a team that reached the final, he managed just two assists and zero goals, while his performance in the final was embarrassing, with Didier Deschamps deciding to take him off four minutes before the break.

  4. Dembele over Mbappe

    Dembele over Mbappe

    The contrast with the efficiency and quality of Mbappe on the opposite flank was stark - and, from a Barcelona perspective, pretty painful. According to agent Junior Minguella, Barca had a €155m (£134m/$184m) deal in place to sign Mbappe before he moved to PSG in the same summer as Neymar, but ultimately decided that Dembele was "better suited to the team's style of play".

    When Minguella recounted this story on Radio Marca in February 2021, there was widespread incredulity, so he subsequently produced WhatsApp messages to verify his claims, tweeting: "A gift for the haters and unbelievers."

  5. 'Dembele deserves special treatment'
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    'Dembele deserves special treatment'

    Whatever the truth, there is simply no denying that the Dembele deal has been a disaster for Barcelona. Bartomeu made a succession of terrible transfers during his notorious tenure, including Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann, but not one has proved such a constant and costly source of frustration.

    And that's in spite of the fact that Barca have gone out of their way to make it work. Bartomeu's successor, Joan Laporta, repeatedly defended Dembele in public, insisting that "he deserves some special treatment, because with these genius types of players, you have to look after him."

    But Dembele has done nothing other than prove himself incapable of even taking care of himself. He didn't come close to repaying Barca for all of the time, money and effort they have invested in him. So, it's not in the least bit surprising that they tried to make amends for the gross error of judgement made six years ago by trying to use Dembele to get Mbappe.

    The problem for Barca is that gamble backfired badly, as they are now without either Mbappe or Dembele, which only raises further questions over the wisdom of the club's transfer market moves - and the intelligence of those making these calls.

  6. Barca better off without Dembele

    Barca better off without Dembele

    In a way, though, it's a fitting final act to all of the drama that has gone before, given Dembele's entire Camp Nou career has been characterised by disappointment. Xavi really shouldn't have been surprised by the Frenchman's decision to join PSG given he has never done nothing but let Barca down.

    Indeed, the abiding image of his time at the club will be Dembele trying to lift an exhausted Lionel Messi off the floor after the Argentine had put the ball on a plate for him in the dying seconds of Barca's Champions League clash with Liverpool in 2019. Had the Frenchman scored, not even Jurgen Klopp's 'mentality monsters' would have believed that a comeback was possible at Anfield. Dembele obviously can't be held solely accountable for the infamous second-leg collapse which followed, but that missed opportunity rather neatly summed up his Barca career.

    Everything was in place for Dembele to become a superstar at Barcelona and he only has himself to blame for failing to do so. He admitted himself last September that he had essentially "wasted five years" of his life with his unprofessional attitude, which shows that he is at least aware of his failings. But he's also squandered one final opportunity to make amends for his ill-discipline. Barca fans undoubtedly deserve better than to see a player that they have supported through thick and thin leave for one of their most hated rivals.

    But, in truth, his exit is a blessing in disguise. Barca were obviously right to fight to get as much money out of PSG as possible - but there really wasn't any need to go to war over Dembele. They should instead make peace with the fact that one of the most expensive signings in the club's history has unfortunately turned out to be the worst.

    This is a player, and indeed a character, that simply cannot be relied upon. Maybe he'll belatedly realise his potential in Paris, but it's completely irrelevant at this stage. Dembele is PSG's problem now. Barca supporters should quickly come to realise that they are better off without him.