There is an odd paradox to Ousmane Dembele.
Wanted by some of the best clubs in Europe yet seemingly cast aside by another, the young Frenchman could well be on the move this summer.
It is worth noting his agent has said there’s zero chance his client will leave, but what Dembele wants and what the club desires are two totally different things.
And there is a very select group of elite clubs with the combined spending power and draw to lure Dembele. In truth, there’s only four and we’ve analysed who might be the best fit for the former Borussia Dortmund star.
Having lost the iconic ‘Robbery’ duo, Bayern are desperately scouring Europe to pinch the best young wing jewels in a bid to crown their exponential summer investment.
Their attempts to convince Manchester City to sell Leroy Sane have not gone well while Lille’s €80 million valuation for Nicolas Pepe has rightly deterred the Bavarian giants.
The Goldilocks principle applies here, the hunt for Sane has gone cold and Pepe’s price tag is too hot to touch, everything about Dembele is just right, though.
Barcelona want €100m which is less than what City are willing to even start negotiations at for Sane and obviously more than Pepe, but for a better talent.
At the moment, Niko Kovac possess just two wingers, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry, both can be improved upon.
No doubt Gnabry was superb on Bayern’s right last season, but the 23-year-old doesn’t carry Dembele’s wild attraction. Coman is undeniably talented but his injury history is equally obvious.
One big element in Bayern’s favour as well, is Dembele’s familiarity with the Bundesliga after emerging as the world’s most precocious attacker at Borussia Dortmund.
Taking into consideration Bayern’s signature style is to line up in a 4-2-3-1 – unless there’s a tactical revolution over the summer – they desperately need Dembele. The big question is how much?
SUITABILITY = 9/10
PROBABILITY = 8/10
The city of Liverpool was a living and breathing beast as the triumphant Reds returned from their Champions League success, but it’s since made way for overwhelming silence.
The win in Madrid means the fan base is still feeding off that glory with little need to draw joy from a mega signing. There is quiet both externally and internally, although, that doesn’t necessarily mean business isn’t being done.
Aside from an understudy left-back, one area which Jurgen Klopp could do with some extra depth in is the forward slots for his 4-3-3 set-up.
Genuine competition for either Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah will ease the weight of games expected on those two and considering Liverpool’s heavy fixture schedule in 2019/20, those two aren’t quite untouchable.
Stylistically, Dembele is a match for a team which plays as if on fast-forward. His raw speed and ambipedal traits means he is lethal for a counter-attacking unit like Liverpool.
Add in the ability to play off either wing, the crucial goal contributions last season, the natural skillset which places him alongside the most gifted on the planet plus the possibility of working alongside Klopp and Dembele is an even more attractive proposition.
So what’s the downside? Dembele trashed the home he rented from ex-Dortmund boss Klopp and when personality is given equal weight to talent by Liverpool’s recruitment team, that will likely have left his chances of moving to Anfield in the same state as the house.
SUITABILITY = 8/10
PROBABILITY = 6/10
This transfer is tricky. Perhaps the best metaphor to define Dembele moving to PSG is if the routes to Liverpool and Bayern are on Google Maps, then for Paris it would be using Apple Maps with it likely directing him back to Rennes instead.
The course to the French capital largely hinges on Neymar going in the opposite direction and that deal in itself has several layers of complexity.
Now, it’s easy to see Dembele being used as a makeweight with Barca trying to sign both Neymar and Antoine Griezmann.
Spending north of €350m on two players in one transfer window dictates asset stripping and if PSG are to lose one of their prized possessions, then taking one of Barca’s carries plenty of incentive.
From Dembele’s perspective, PSG is a destination which could provide a fillip to his career. Indeed, his talent is not in question but there have been several incidents in Barcelona of disciplinary issues, arriving late to training, diet and things of that nature.
These are all understandable results of a developing young mind on big money who is largely alone in a foreign country.
Perhaps returning to familiar surroundings in his native France would help him create chaos on the pitch as opposed to off it.
For PSG, twinning two of France’s biggest and brightest stars in their attack has obvious marketing benefits beneath the frightening prospect of Dembele and Kylian Mbappe operating together on the pitch.
SUITABILITY = 9/10
PROBABILITY = 8/10
Dembele ticks off just about every box in United’s wing wishlist. He’s young, possesses blurring speed with dexterity off either foot, has a proven record of scoring and creating goals and he can play on either wing.
Borussia Dortmund’s breakout star Jadon Sancho is reportedly their top target with the right side a key area to resolve, but Dembele is arguably a more realistic – at least this summer anyway – and in some respects a better buy.
Sancho is still only 19 and as he proved at Dortmund last season, there remain areas of his game to refine, particularly in terms of consistency within games and across consecutive fixtures.
Dembele on the other hand is further along in his development and he is the type of player United can build around.
No team on this list needs Dembele more than United.
The issue is that despite the reality of possessing enormous financial power to potentially offer the biggest package to both Barca and player, Dembele at Old Trafford is a delusion.
Without Champions League football to offer, or an immediate Premier League title challenge, United are at the moment shopping in a tier or two below talents like Dembele.
SUITABILITY = 8/10
PROBABILITY = 5/10
Rumours are gathering pace that the 27-year-old could move back to Barca two years after his world-record €222 million switch to the Ligue 1 giants.
This comes on the back of PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s comments that “celebrity behaviour” would no longer be tolerated.
And Tebas has reinforced that stance as his reasoning for not wanting the Brazil superstar to return to his product.
“I prefer that Neymar does not return to Barca,” he told Onda Cero.
“We always want to bring great players, but in the case of Neymar that behaviour is not good for the competition because in the end the news is if the player has done this or that.
“We have worked a lot in La Liga to maintain the values and we don’t want to change the image.”
He added: “He can be a great player, but the behaviour is very important in the values we transmit in the competition.
“If outside the field the example is not correct, I prefer that he doesn’t return to La Liga because he is not a good example.”
“What is correct, at the current time, what I have read, what I have heard, which seems exact, is that Neymar wants to come back to Barcelona,” Jordi Cardoner told a press conference at the Camp Nou.
But he stressed that Barcelona had made no contact so far with the world’s most expensive footballer who joined the French champions for €222 million.
For the moment the club acknowledged Neymar’s interest in returning to Barcelona but said there was no recruitment effort on their part to resign him.
“To say that Barca is working on recruiting Neymar, that is something I cannot agree with,” Cardoner said.
“For the moment all that is happening – and not only with Neymar – is that a number of players would like to play for a great club like Barcelona. We will see what happens in timely fashion.”
“We are currently working on the phase of deciding which players we will not be keeping on next season,” said Cardoner.
“We are recruiting no-one at the moment, especially not this player (Neymar) with whom we have had no contact.”
However, media reports indicated that intermediaries between PSG and Barca had hammered out the terms of the deal which would free the Brazilian star to return to Barcelona this summer.
According to other Spanish media reports this week, Neymar has offered to take a pay cut of €12 million a year to return to the club and Barca have reached a ‘verbal agreement’ to take him back.
And further reports in Spain indicated PSG would be willing to sell, but only if they retrieve their entire €222m fee laid out for Neymar.
📰 — PSG are happy to sell Neymar to Barça if they get their money back: all €222m of it. [sport] pic.twitter.com/3kp7NyFUt2— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) June 28, 2019
The 27-year-old spent four years at Camp Nou, winning the Champions League in 2015 and two La Liga titles in a potent attacking trio alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Any return for Neymar would likely require Barca to raise funds through sales. Antoine Griezmann is expected to join from Atletico Madrid for €120 million while Frenkie de Jong has already signed for €75 million from Ajax.
The pay cut would see Neymar’s salary clipped from around €36 million at PSG to the €24 million he received at Barca prior to his departure in 2017, according to the reports.