With silly season in full swing, Bayern Munich's search for a successor to Robbery has led to them be linked with Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembélé. While the validity of these reports are dubious at best (pace Christian Falk), that leaves one big question — would Dembélé and Bayern be a good fit for each other?
Let's take a look:
The pros of signing Dembélé
Before we look at the numerous cons of a potential transfer, let’s take a look at all the pros. Bayern Munich need a successor to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. We already have Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry playing for us, but it would still be nice to have a third world class winger to round out the squad and protect against injuries and suspensions, especially in the Champions League.
How does Dembélé fit into that? Well:
- He’s very young — only 22 years old — and has a ton of potential.
- He’s fits the profile — as a speedy inverted winger who is capable of cutting inside and shooting, Dembélé is the exact sort of winger Bayern want.
- He has Bundesliga experience — having already played in Germany without too many issues, Dembélé shouldn’t find it too hard to adjust. In addition, he’ll have the support network of Bayern’s French contingent, which is rather sizable at this point.
That’s all the good. Here’s the bad (in order of importance):
The cons of signing Dembélé
While Dembélé didn’t have any injury problems at Rennes or Borussia Dortmund, his fitness tanked after his blockbuster move to Barcelona in the summer of 2017. Here’s a short rundown of his injuries since joining Barcelona, courtesy of transfermarkt:
- Season 17/18: Hamstring injury. 106 days (20 games) missed, from September 2017 to January 2018.
- Season 17/18: Torn muscle bundle. 26 days (7 games) missed, from January 2018 to February 2018.
- Season 18/19: Ankle injury. 18 days (5 games) missed from January 2019 to February 2019.
- Season 18/19: Torn muscle bundle. 26 days (4 games) missed from March 2019 to April 2019.
- Season 18/19: Hamstring injury. 42 days (4 games) missed from May 2019 to June 2019.
Despite Barcelona’s medical wizardry, Dembélé has really struggled with injuries at the Camp Nou, muscular injuries being the most prevalent. This is very serious, as these sorts of injuries can dog a player throughout his career, sidelining him over and over.
There were also reports that Barcelona had concerns about Dembélé’s diet, fearing that he wasn’t eating healthily enough to maintain fitness, going so far as to provide him a personal chef, but these reports were rubbished by the player himself.
However, even if he is eating properly, Dembélé’s injury record should be worrisome to the Bavarians. Our injury record isn’t the best, and Bayern’s in-house medical team (led by Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt) is nothing compared to Barcelona’s fitness team. It’s rare for Barca to have a player with a fitness record so severe, and that should be the biggest red flag in a potential transfer.
#2: He’s not even as good as Serge Gnabry
Dembélé is good, but exactly how good is he? Despite commanding a massive fee of over 100 million euros back when he was signed, it’s safe to say the young Frenchman hasn’t lived up to the promise he showed in his only season at Borussia Dortmund. Some of that is down to injuries, some of it is down to Ernesto Valverde’s poor tactical setup. However, Dembélé doesn’t have the numbers that you should pay 100m+ for.
Just take a look at this comparison between him and Serge Gnabry (courtesy of understat.com):
I omitted minutes as a sub and Dembélé’s short stint as a right back for fairness (although it doesn’t make much of a difference). Gnabry, who we signed for just €8m back in 2017, is currently head and shoulders over Dembélé, despite having to adjust to his third new club in as many seasons.
Now, Dembélé has been beset by injuries (although Gnabry has had his fair share) and he may get better with time, do we really need a player who is currently playing at a level lower than Serge Gnabry? That doesn’t make sense, and it should be kill any notion of a transfer outright.
#3: Barca’s asking price
According to Mundo Deportivo, a Catalan newspaper that is essentially considered the mouthpiece of the Barcelona board, Ousmane Dembele will not be sold for anything less than his release clause of €400m. While German newspapers are trying to tell us that Dembélé may be sold if Barca bring in both Antione Griezmann and Neymar this summer, Josep Maria Bartomeu has publicly stated that they’re counting on him for next season.
Reports from Spain have been very consistent on this front — Dembélé won’t be going anywhere. And if we assume that this is some kind of negotiating tactic on the part of the Catalans to squeeze more money out of a potential buyer, then that means Barca won’t be satisfied by Leroy Sané money.
At that price, it’s better for Bayern to just stay away.
#4: Dembele’s allegedly “poor attitude”
Dembele’s allegedly poor attitude is an issue that has been overblown by the Spanish media, but it’s still something to keep in mind. This is a kid that went AWOL on Dortmund just few weeks before the start of the new season just to force his transfer to Barcelona. Uli Hoeness strongly criticized the player’s conduct back then, and it’s unlikely that his opinion has changed in the intervening years.
In addition, reports that Dembélé frequently comes late to training cannot be ignored. Being late is generally frowned upon in Germany, and it’s doubtful that the Bayern bosses or coach Niko Kovac will look kindly upon a player who does so. The last player who did that at Bayern is no longer with us.
Now, Bayern have dealt with players who have an attitude, but this is different. Franck Ribery was a difficult player to work with, but he always showed 100% dedication when it came to football. Leroy Sané, one of our rumored targets this season, is known to have a bit of an ego, but by most accounts he’s very professional in training and on the pitch. Dembélé on the other hand — note, we’re dealing with tabloid reporting here — doesn’t seem to be cut from the same cloth, and that’s a problem.
At that price, we’d be better off looking at someone else.
#5: There are better options available
There are a lot of wingers out there — many of them young and extremely talented. Leroy Sané remains Bayern’s main target, and there’s still a chance he might leave Manchester City (although hope seems to be fading). Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi is another candidate, whose contract runs out next summer so the Blues could be forced to sell.
There’s also Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech, Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa, PSV’s Steven Bergwijn ... the list goes on. Considering all the other potential drawbacks of a Dembele signing, Bayern Munich should focus its efforts on other players. He just isn’t worth it.