There was a time, not so long ago, when Barcelona’s demanding fanbase couldn’t have cared less if Ousmane Dembele was sold or not.
Incessant newspaper headlines relating to poor timekeeping, a lackadaisical attitude and little effort being shown in training or in matches, meant that if his Barca career wasn’t hanging by a thread, then it wasn’t too far off.
That’s when Ernesto Valverde played his trump card.With all and sundry expecting the coach to offload the Frenchman in the summer, the Basque went against the grain of public opinion and stated, categorically, that Dembele wouldn’t be sold.
Furthermore, he expected the wide man to be an integral part of the team for 2018/19.
After a summer in which he won the World Cup with France, the question that remained was whether Dembele would repay the faith shown in him.
With the playing staff also doing their bit to get the player to see the error of his ways, it wasn’t long before we saw the type of skills and goal output that Dembele was renowned for at Borussia Dortmund.
Fast forward a few months, and it’s obvious how important he’s become for Valverde and the team.
He’s one of the first names on the team sheet and, as we’ve seen just recently when he’s injured, the Catalans aren’t quite the same proposition in attack.
Try as he might, Philippe Coutinho isn’t hitting the heights of last season, and hasn’t really done so throughout this campaign.
He may or may not be the fall guy against Manchester United for the second leg of the Champions League quarter final, but there’s little doubt that Valverde will find room for Dembele.
Aside from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who are more than enough to keep most defences occupied, the Frenchman will represent a real threat for Barca at the Camp Nou, and one that was missing in the first leg.
There has even been a suggestion that over the recent international break, there was only one car that was parked in the training ground on each day of the break.
That car was Dembele’s.
Valverde can therefore finally be satisfied that the faith and trust he placed in the player is finally being rewarded.
If he can continue to prove his worth on a regular basis, he’s sure to be a fixture in the Barca front line for years to come.
And who would’ve said that a year ago…