Moussa Dembélé’s 24-minute hat-trick from the bench against St.Johnstone on Sunday afternoon took his tally for the season to 23 in all competitions, adding to his ever-growing reputation. The Frenchman’s form has captured the attention of fans, pundits and potential suitors alike, culminating in the intense speculation we seen in January’s transfer window.
The consensus is that it’s difficult to accurately gauge the true quality of a player that plays in Scotland but Dembélé is surely fast approaching the level where his ability transcends all of those doubts. The list of players who developed into the finished article while in Scotland and then went on to be a success in the more prestigious leagues in Europe may be short, but there are just enough of them to prove that Dembélé can replicate their journeys.
Since arriving at Celtic, Dembélé has shown a ruthless goalscoring instinct with all of his goals coming from inside the 18-yard box. His intelligence to hold his position in the penalty area has paid off for him time and time again this season and it shows a maturity beyond his 20 years.
⚽ @MDembele_10 netted his 20th goal of the season in yesterday’s Cup win!
Here’s how he scored them ? pic.twitter.com/JZUQ09rAdv
— Celtic Football Club (@celticfc) January 23, 2017
His second goal on Sunday was from around 17 yards, the furthest out of any strike this season. As the graphic above shows, he has scored the majority of his goals with his right foot but there have been a few goals from his weaker side and a couple of headers highlighting what he is capable of.
Speaking in his post-match interview on Sunday, Brendan Rodgers highlighted Dembélé’s importance to his side after having to navigate three games without a striker due to a string of injuries.
“You see the difference in the team the moment he comes in. What I’ve seen in his time here is that he’s a big game player and he has an inherent belief in his ability, he knows where he wants to get to.”
Perhaps the biggest string to Dembélé’s bow is that he is making the difference in the pressure matches. His first couple of appearances in a Celtic shirt were quite tentative before he became the first Celtic player in 50 years to score a hat-trick against Rangers in his first derby game. His performance against Manchester City, along with his pivotal role in the other two derbies against Rangers, show that he is the man for the big occasion.
The France Under-21 international is not without fault though, he still has much progress to make before securing a move to one of Europe’s richest clubs. His big game ability can at times be balanced against lacklustre displays in the so-called less important games against the likes of Hamilton or Partick Thistle at home, for example. He has that very nonchalant demeanour which is often typical of gifted French players and when things get tough that attitude can look like disinterest. Maybe more big games is just what he needs.
One thing is for sure though, Celtic is the ideal club for him at this time in his career. He is clearly a massive talent that wants to get to the top of the game. In keeping with his deadline day tweet to confirm he was staying in Glasgow, where else could he experience Champions League as a first-team regular at 20 years old? Where else could he learn what it’s like to win trophies as a first-team regular? And where else could he experience one of the most intense derbies in world football, in front of 60,000 supporters? He certainly couldn’t get that sort of learning curve at West Ham, and he wouldn’t get it somewhere like Chelsea because he’d spend his whole time sitting on the bench (Exhibit A: Michy Batshuayi).
Moussa Dembélé will probably leave Celtic this summer but there is no better place for his development at this time in his career.
What else ? ?????? pic.twitter.com/Zp4IQRmjPH
— Moussa Dembélé (@MDembele_10) January 31, 2017
With Dembélé moving to the Premier League in the summer, the striker will be hoping to avoid making his way into the list of the worst debut seasons in the top flight of English football?