This season it is taken as a given that Ousmane Dembele will start for Barcelona in the big games. The French winger is enjoying his best spell since arriving at Spain after his first contract expired, leaving as many questions as answers about the mercurial talent.
Ultimately, the biggest difference between the Dembele which is now so beloved by Camp Nou and that of the first four years is fitness. For all of 2022, Dembele has remained injury-free.
Currently on international duty with France, Dembele took the time to do an interview with the football program hosted by Jerome Rothen, where he was sincere on the bad times. Diario AS carried his comments.
“Between 2017 and 2021 I was constantly missing time due to injuries.”
“I had a lot of thigh injuries. So I had to work. They often said to me: ‘if you do not work, you will stagnate.’ If you don’t get stronger, you will injure yourself.”
“And then something happened, with Koeman, and with Xavi it was even better. Since then, I have not had any injuries. We are always crossing our fingers, we keep working and then it’s been good for me, I feel good at Barcelona, I have the confidence of the whole team, the whole club and I am happy.”
“It’s good, because I have been through a lot of things in the last five years, now everyone is talking about football, everything is better.”
He also acknowledged that perhaps he was not as focused as he might have been.
“I was young like everyone else. But I managed to get out of that situation. However, it is not as people imagined.”
Although there is no doubt that the expectations were always going to be high of a player costing so much money, there are perhaps questions to be asked about the expectations placed on such young shoulders. Only a select few are consistently on an upward trajectory before their mid-twenties.