Chelsea must rescue Dembele before he stagnates at Celtic

Ryan Benson

It’s often difficult to make a genuine and educated judgement about how good Scottish Premiership players actually are. That has been the case for quite some time, but with Scottish football only appearing to decline even further in recent years, these days it’s more of a challenge. 

Gone are the days when we would see two Scottish clubs in the Champions League group stage, and while Celtic gave a decent account of themselves in this season’s competition, they still finished bottom of their group without a win to their name.

In years gone by it would be more commonplace to see players make the jump from Scotland’s top tier to the English Premier League, though currently most would actually consider the Championship to be a better level than the Premiership.

One player who went the other way (from England to Scotland) is Moussa Dembele, currently earning a decent reputation for himself with Celtic having originally played for Fulham, with the Paris Saint-Germain youth product scoring 15 league goals in 43 appearances last season before moving on a free transfer.

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He has continued to catch the eye north of the border, with his performances in the Champions League also forcing people to take note. There’s no doubt about it; he is a talented player at just 20.

But how good is he? Critics are always likely to point at his goal tally in the Premiership so far this season, having scored a relatively modest sum of nine in 21 games.

Hardly a groundbreaking record, is it? But scoring lots of goals in Scotland isn’t necessarily the mark of a great striker – Scott McDonald, for instance, enjoyed a strong record for Celtic but struggled with Middlesbrough and Millwall in the Championship.

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Where Dembele really comes into his own is his movement and ability on the ball. He is two-footed, exceptionally fast and a fine dribbler capable of leaving defences in knots and any doubter of his talent need only watch Celtic’s 3-3 draw at home to Manchester City in September’s Champions League clash.

The young Frenchman was outstanding, scoring twice and running City ragged with his pace, power and particularly impressive hold-up play. The Scottish Premiership may have served the English top flight with stinkers before, but Dembele certainly won’t be another.

And Chelsea are the club reportedly most likely to make a move, with rumours of an enquiry made on Monday. But Celtic are understood to be demanding £40m for the 20-year-old, figures which few wouldn’t raise their eyebrows in amazement at. Figures which would put him in the realms of Diego Costa.

Of course, it is a seller’s market and Celtic hold all of the aces with respect to anyone wanting to take Dembele from them, even if it is a ridiculous figure for a player who is yet to play for his national team.

Nevertheless, that probably won’t be the case for too long considering his key status in France‘s Under-21 squad, and Chelsea – a club who can actually afford to spend £30m+ on a player – might be wise to take the risk before someone else does.

A risk it may well be, but the sooner he is snapped up, the sooner he can be begin his adaptation to the Premier League and judging by his display against City, his settling won’t take much time.

Wait too long, though, and he may begin to stagnate in Scotland and everyone will be ruing a missed opportunity.

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