The Tricolores went up in unison as English players slumped to the floor. Ousmane Dembélé wheeled away celebrating his first international goal and the winner at the Stade de France. The 3-2 friendly win brought down the curtain on a great season for Borussia Dortmund’s number 7.
How the best academy in France came calling
Born in 1997 and raised in the Normandy town of Évreux by a Mauritanian and Senegalese mother and a Malian father, Dembélé honed his skills competing against older boys. He played at local amateur clubs and with small-sided game futsal. Dembélé’s excellent technique was so refined that it was difficult to discern his dominant foot. It was not long before one of the best academies in France came calling.
Ousmane Dembele is ambidexterity defined. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/CldlO9dPXf
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 21, 2017
Stade Rennais didn’t need to convince the Évreux native that his future lay in Brittany. The list of alumni included Sylvain Wiltord, Yoann Gourcuff, Yann M’Vila, Yacine Brahimi and others. Dembélé was progressing well until the summer of 2015.
Training with the first team but fustrated by the absence of a professional contract, the young winger and his advisors decided to boycott the preseason and engineer a move away. Red Bull Salzburg and Benfica were circling like sharks.
Patience is a virtue
Urged by his mother to practise patience, Dembélé changed stance and instead signed professional terms with Rennes in October. A month later, the first appearance in Ligue 1 came against Angers. The first goal came two weeks later at the expense of Bordeaux. At the end of the season, he had played 26 league games, scored 12, assisted five times. He was voted best young player in France. His mother’s advice had borne fruit early.
Merci pour tout 😉⚽️🇫🇷✅👍🏽 pic.twitter.com/KUKjCfnpHQ
— Ousmane Dembélé (@Dembouz) May 8, 2016
His talent shines at Dortmund
The Champions League anthem proved too good a tune to turn down for the Frenchman. He linked up with Borussia Dortmund last summer. In the famous yellow and black, Dembélé’s eye for a pass became apparent. The likes of Aubameyang were served with perfectly weighted crosses. The goals kept coming too. This sublime effort against Bayern Munich was the pick of the bunch.
Die Fans haben entschieden: @Dembouz hat das Tor der Pokalsaison 16/17 erzielt ✌ Zum Voting-Ergebnis➡ https://t.co/0TtiLewbl0 @BVB #DFBPokal pic.twitter.com/yeBKcHtqTs
— DFB-Pokal (@DFB_Pokal) June 13, 2017
A German cup, 12 assists (second best tally in the Bundesliga) and a first cap for France were landmarks in a career still at its genesis.
A match made in heaven
But if there was any game that highlighted the Frenchman’s quality it was the recent friendly against England.
Positioned on the right of a front three, the youngster caused the Three Lions all sorts of problems with his spatial awareness, sprinter’s pace and trickery. Djibril Sidibé’s goal was a result of Dembélé selling John Stones a dummy and seeing his shot parried into the path of the right-back. The combination with Kylian Mbappé was also eye catching.
Victoire 3-2 contre l'Angleterre 🇫🇷👌🏽.
Mon gars @Dembouz dit leur #cafaittropdibien 😂❤ pic.twitter.com/iy8lWfOpH1
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) June 13, 2017
The understanding between the two was symbiotic. The Stade de France hadn’t seen such chemistry in a duo since the days of Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet. Both youngsters put each other clean on goal on numerous occasions but failed to convert.
It was not until the 78th minute when France, who had been playing most of the second half with 10 men following Raphael Varane’s dismissal, found the breakthrough. Mbappé set up Dembélé to arrow a shot into the far corner for the win. The most impressive thing? They played with the same intensity after the red card. Kyle Walker, in particular, will remember Dembélé’s trick.
On the cusp of greatness
Always moving, it seems the winger could swap Dortmund for Barcelona where talk of personal terms already being agreed feature in most back pages. Dortmund insist he’s staying with them. But with a World Cup next year, it is important that the ambipedal dynamo continues a development path: he is on the cusp of legendary status.
Congratulations to @Dembouz! This talent from club @BVB has won the title Bundesliga Rookie of the season. #BLROOKIE #DontCrackUnderPressure pic.twitter.com/frZ9CSLaVY
— TAG Heuer (@TAGHeuer) June 21, 2017