After a disappointing opening campaign at Barcelona, which was mainly as a result of an untimely injury not long after joining, Ousmane Dembele was expected to hit the ground running at the start of 2018/19.
Though there were some suggestions that the Catalans should cash in, with Liverpool allegedly interested in his services, Ernesto Valverde was clear that the young Frenchman was absolutely part of his plans.
That faith appeared to have been justified with a handful of match-winning performances, but, soon enough, Dembele fell back into the trap of not tracking back, lazy and ill-considered passing and a general feeling of everything being too much trouble.
Gone was the electric pace and a shoot on sight policy that had reaped dividends.
In its place came a player that was consistently late to training and team meetings and, evidently, one who wasn’t taking on board the best advice from his contemporaries.
Whether he has a chip on his shoulder, like many youngsters, is a moot point because he would’ve known the demands that Barcelona place on a player when he signed for the club.
He can’t simply decide to turn up when he feels like it. Both on and off of the pitch.
The match against Sevilla saw him roundly booed by the home support, not just for his awful touch and decision making on the night, but his unwillingness to correct those errors.
The emergence in midfield of Arthur Melo had initially given Ernesto Valverde a headache, but is now one of the simplest decisions he has to make each week.
Accommodating the Brazilian into a 4-4-2 sees Dembele as the fall guy, and no one would argue with that decision at this point.
It was noticeable recently, when Demebele equalised late on against Rayo, that not one of his team-mates joined in his celebrations. That really said everything.
And yet, every chance he gets to redeem himself, he fails.
Not selected against Real Betis, unlike his peers who would still turn up to the game an hour or so before and involve themselves in the team briefings and being with their colleagues, Dembele arrived five minutes before kick-off.
At half-time he meandered around and then didn’t re-take his seat until five minutes after the second half had started.
Gerard Pique has suggested it’s down to the squad to remind the youngster of his responsibilities and, given more time, he’ll come good.
Director, Guillermo Amor, wasn’t quite so conciliatory and suggested that Dembele had to be much more professional in his outlook.
The warning couldn’t have been starker.
There was a reason Barcelona paid upwards of €100m for his services, and it’s about time Dembele starting repaying their faith.
Once again, the ball is back in the wide man’s court, and if he continues to ignore every effort that’s being made to help him, this story will only end one way.
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