Barcelona’s new signing Ousmane Dembele said Monday he had eyes firmly fixed on winning titles and a place in France’s squad at next year’s World Cup.
Dembele, 20, transferred to Barca from Borussia Dortmund in a 105 million-euro ($125 million) deal that could rise to 145m with add-ons depending on his performance, as the Catalan giants splashed out to fill the gap left by Neymar’s own world record 222m-euro move to Paris Saint-Germain.
“What I want is to be here, to play with the world’s best players,” Dembele said in an interview with Mundo Deportivo newspaper.
The best players, he said, “are at Barca and it’s for that reason I came here. To win titles for the team and then to be able to be with the France team at the World Cup in Russia”.
Dembele again played down any comparison with Neymar.
“Neymar is a great player and I still have to strive to improve, to play as I know and offer up my best qualities,” the Frenchman said.
“I like to dribble and give the decisive pass to my teammates.
“What I hope is to be able to adapt well to the team and to know them all, Messi, Suarez, Iniesta… But above all, to have a good entry into the squad.
“At Rennes I played more down the left wing, but also down the right and sometimes in midfield. At Dortmund, it was the same, I alternated wings. I don’t have problems with the position I’ll take up.”
Dembele acknowledged that Barca had been interested in signing him last season, but he said he “would not have played what I needed to”.
“I had only been playing professionally for half a year. I had to learn more,” he said.
Dembele will now form a fearsome forward line alongside five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as Barca aim to wrestle the Champions League and La Liga titles back from rivals Real Madrid.
He will have to wait, however, until at least September 9 to make his debut when Barca host Espanyol in a Catalan derby.
Dembele announced himself as one of Europe’s top prospects with a stellar season at Dortmund, scoring 10 goals, after joining from Rennes for just 15 million euros a year ago.
Gareth Southgate has revealed England striker Harry Kane measures his goal record against perennial Ballon d’Or contenders Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Tottenham striker Kane is a back-to-back golden boot winner at Premier League level and a brace against Malta on Friday took his international tally to 10 in 20 games.
With five of those coming in the past three games he is looking increasingly comfortable with the demands of leading his country’s attack and the Three Lions boss is impressed with just how high the forward’s sights are set.
“He’s in top form, but he’s also got the mentality to want to be the best,” said Southgate on the eve of Monday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovakia.
“He knows where he’s sitting. I asked him how many goals in how many games and he knew. He also knew how many Ronaldo had at this point, how many Messi had at this point and everybody else.
“He’s driven to be one of the world’s best and why can’t that happen moving forward?”
A quick look at the numbers suggests Kane is still some way short of the mark set by the Barcelona and Real Madrid rivals, regardless of his own impressive stats.
Kane turns 25 next July, an age at which Messi had netted 26 times for Argentina with Ronaldo boasting 22 for Portugal.
But Southgate is clear about just how big an asset he is and says the Spain manager shares the same view.
“I was having some interaction with Julen Lopetegui at a game and he was commenting on how lucky I was to have Harry playing,” he said.
“I have every trust in Harry. I’ve worked with him long enough, from the under-21s through, and he’ll deliver whatever the occasion.
“Harry is still in the early stages of his career, but he’s top scorer in the league two years running and in a really good place.
“You’ve got to have that drive and belief, and that’s what he’s got. He had that when we weren’t picking him in the under-21s. He’d come and say: ‘Hold on a minute, why? What’s the rationale?’ I never minded that self-belief. That’s all important.”
Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, at 18 the most expensive French player of all time, said Sunday he wanted to “mark the history” of the French capital with his new club.
Mbappe, who hails from the northeastern Parisian surburb of Bondy, joined PSG from Monaco on a season-long loan last week in a deal that will make him the second most expensive footballer in history.
His overall transfer fee could rise to 180 million euros ($215 million) including add-ons, which would make Mbappe second only to new team-mate Neymar on the all-time list of costliest transfers.
“Big players have marked history in their country whether with the national team or their club,” Mbappe said in an interview with TF1, adding that it would have been premature to have left France.
“What I want to do is to really mark the history of my city. PSG was really the project that allowed me to carry on my progress while playing.”
Asked whether the arrival of Neymar from Barcelona for a record 222 million euros affected his decision to join PSG, Mbappe said: “No.
“Nonetheless, to play with Neymar is really something extraordinary. We all know the player he is. PSG already interested me but with Neymar it’s true that it was an extra boost.
“When you arrive at a club like that, which has the ambition of becoming the best club in the world, you have the ambition to win everything.
“The Champions League is part of those competitions so we’ll play to win everything.”
French pundits were left purring about Mbappe, Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger telling TF1 he had the potential “to become a Pele”, and 1998 World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu claiming he was “more complete” than France’s record goal scorer Thierry Henry at the same age.
Mbappe scored his first international goal in France’s 4-0 victory over the Netherlands on Thursday, coming off the bench to net at the death.