How Brendan Rodgers signed Moussa Dembele

Ben Mountain

Brendan Rodgers is, as we all know, one of the most widely parodied managers in British football. Whilst this may not be an accolade that he’ll want to shout from the rooftops, the fella does certainly see himself as a high achiever. The bizarre following phone call shows just how much.

When Moussa Dembélé left Fulham in 2016 as a promising and fairly prolific teenage striker, most people assumed that he’d leave for a big money move with one of Europe’s top clubs. For a deluded minority, he did. For those deranged few who still see Celtic as one of Europe’s top clubs, we mean. But what a good move it has has proven to be. 27 goals in 41 games for The Hoops has cemented the Frenchman’s status as one of football’s brightest starlets. He now has clubs such as Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich with an eye on him.

No pressure for the 20-year-old there, then.

Anyway, the move to Celtic was not the most expected choice for Dembélé to have made last summer. The move up to Parkhead appears to have been down to one man and his maverick tactics. Cue Brendan Rodgers.

When seeing a young Dembélé for the first time, Rodgers had quite the task on his hands. “Brendan was clear. He explained that Celtic could not pay what some of the other clubs in Europe could pay” stated the Frenchman’s agent, Mamadi Fofana. So, without the financial backing like the bigger clubs, just how did Rodgers complete this deal? Well, it turns out that a cocky few phone calls and a couple of close players go a long way in this industry. Even if they don’t say what they’re meant to, apparently.

That’s right, Brendan Rodgers got Moussa Dembélé to call the former Liverpool players, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling in a bid to prove how competent a manager he is.

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We spoke to the forward and found out just how this went.

“Well, we were sitting in Mr Rodgers’ office. I’m looking around me and there’s framed pictures of the time that Liverpool beat AFC Wimbledon and drew with Ludogorets Razgrad. He was beaming at them, gently, before asking ‘Are you alright, son? You seem a tad nervous.'”

“This was when he began his mission to sign me up: ‘Listen, lad. I get it. I know how you’re feeling. Yeah, I know the youth. Used to be one myself.’ He then winked. ‘Hey, kiddo, at the end of the day, we’re all cool. Whatever you do, dude. But I just want you to know one tincey wincey thing, man. I’m a good guy, okay?’ He winked again, but this time with a click in his cheek. I shifted in my chair.”

“He then turned and quietly stuck Don’t Stop Movin’ by ‘S Club 7’ on his iPod and reiterated the same point from before; ‘See, I know the youth, pal.’ I became more and more distracted as the song went on, however.”

“Anyway, after kicking his feet a couple times before sticking them up on the desk and heavily sighing ‘Ah, good times’, he continued. ‘I’m not gonna sit here and chat waffle to you, son. Hey, some of the stories I come up with most people don’t believe, anyway. I’m kind of a wild kind of guy like that. So why don’t I get a couple members of the gang to say it for me instead? It would put your mind at ease, yeah?.’ I hesitantly nodded as he passed me his phone as it was calling.”

“The contact on the screen was ‘Luis ‘The Lad‘ Suarez’.”

“Mr Suarez picked up. ‘Ergh?’ He then spat, I think. ‘Who?’ he asked. ‘Hi, Mr Suarez, this is Moussa Dembélé from Fulham, I’m just -‘. At this point, Mr Rodgers interrupted and took the phone from me. ‘L-man. How’s it hanging? Wait, lemme put you on speaker a quick mo. Gimme a hot sec, brother. There, that’s better’ he chirped merrily.”

“Listen, mate, I got a young lad here who’s a little unsure whether to whack the old signature on the old dotted line for me. Just gotta ask you for a quickie, bro. Not in a dirty way, mind you, but like a favour. Yeah, you just let the lad know how awesome your old Uncle Brendan is.’ I then listened eagerly but Mr Suarez just sort of grunted a bit and said something in Spanish and then hung up.”

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“Hold up, matey. I got another one for you. Dunno if he’ll say so many nice things as the L-man did, mind you.’ He then flashed me the phone again, this time with ‘Rapsta Raheem’ on the screen. I couldn’t imagine that much was to come next.”

“Yo, yo, yo, Raheem! It’s your boy, Brends! Listen, man, I got a big favour to ask you. You see how you went from being a respected, promising teenager to a multi-millionaire, over-rated tool? Yep, I know; thanks to me. Well I need you to repay the favour quickly please, pal. Just blurt out the first thoughts that come to your mind when you think about me. Don’t hold back now, you old devil, you.'”

“Rodgers sat back in his chair and started to beam at the pictures again whilst muttering something in a state of sheer ecstasy. He seemed excited.”

“‘Err, I dunno, gaffer. You’re a good motivator. And you done really, really well at Swansea City I think. I suppose you milked Steven Gerrard and Luis dry of their talent for a couple seasons and, well, this may be a little personal but – oh well, who cares? I’m gonna say it anyway. Boss, you made me and Daniel Sturridge seem good enough to play for England. Now if that doesn’t make you a legend, I dunno what does.’ Rodgers’ excitement was overflowing as he fist-pumped the air, almost pulling a tendon as he did.”

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“‘Geeza!’, he cried out loudly and stood up. ‘Love it, son. Cheers, Razza. Anyway, bro, gotta bit of the old work to do now so gotta shoot.’ He pointed his fingers like a gun at me and blew the tops of them. ‘Listen, before you go: little plan. Me, you, a load of pints sometime next week? Well, a couple pints anyway, you know what I’m like. Oi oi. Just the stags catching up again?’. Apparently the line then went dead.”

“‘So, son, how you feeling about joining my Celtic team now, eh?’ quizzed Mr Rodgers. I told him that I was encouraged but still a little unsure. He said he had one last trick up his sleeve. Another phone call, it seemed.”

“This time, the screen flashed up with ‘Bae <3’as a speed dial contact. ‘Call it,’ he whispered with some pleasure and a little guilt. ‘Go for it, boy. Press that button and change your life forever. I dare you.’ I pressed it, he seemed a touch disappointed with the lack of flamboyancy.”

“It rang. And rang. And rang. Finally, it cut off. I didn’t know who on earth I was calling and the unending silence from the phone hung over us like an eerie black cloak.”

“‘Try it again, lad.’ So I did. It rang. And rang. And, then, noise.”

“‘Listen Brendan, I’ve told you before and I won’t say it again. Leave me alone, I’m not joining you and, no, I don’t want to go for an effin’ pint. Leave me alone you creep or I’ll block you’.”

“A single tear swelled up in Mr Rodgers’ eye. He choked and whispered, ‘I loved you, Joe.’ Then the line went dead again.”

Sad times for the former Liverpool gaffer, then. But clearly he got something right with that meeting and, if Moussa Dembélé keeps on performing the way he has been, then he’s got something else right, too. Bright times ahead for the young, French forward it would seem.



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