Le50 2016: Ousmane Dembele – Stade Rennais

DEMBELE

It is incredible to think that less than 12 months ago, only the most ardent of Rennes fans had heard of Ousmane Dembele. The youngster has since taken the league by storm with blistering performance after blistering performance for les Rouges et Noirs.

Having joined the Breton side at the age of 13, Dembele was quick to make a name for himself. His electric pace and sharp finishing made him a stand-out player for the academy sides. In summer 2015 Dembele began to grow dissatisfied over a perceived lack of opportunities and development. He refused Rennes’ initial professional contract offers before finally agreeing terms in October 2015. Neither the club nor the player has looked back since.

In November, then-Rennes coach Philippe Montanier gave the young winger his first start and it took less than half an hour for him to open his goalscoring account. Primarily deployed on the wing, Dembele has been brought into a more central, roaming role by new coach Rolland Courbis, a move that allows Dembele to flourish.

There are few players around who are as quick on the ball as the youngster; he is full of tricks and as has been demonstrated so many times already, his coolness in front of goal is excellent. Once in the box his pace and skill allow him to create room where there doesn’t seem to be any before he can unleash shots off either foot. That ambidexterity is one of the big reasons so many defenders have problems with him. Unsure which way he will go and from which angle a potential shot or cross will come leaves even the most experienced defenders flummoxed. When asked which he prefers, Dembele said “right or left is the same thing for me. I think I shoot better with my right but dribble better on my left”.

From his debut up to the beginning of April only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has contributed more combined goals and assists than Dembele – a statistic that really highlights the incredible impact the youngster has had.

Rennes advisor Mickael Silvestre has gone on record numerous times to extol the virtues of the player with his highest acclaim given in an interview with France Football where he compared Dembele with a young Cristiano Ronaldo when he first arrived at Manchester United. Silvestre went on to claim that Dembele could well be a future Ballon d’Or winner. High praise indeed but it doesn’t take much viewing to see why Silvestre made these statements.

There are still some areas that Dembele needs to work on before he becomes the finished article – knowing when to play a pass rather than taking on a player being the most telling, with Dembele even acknowledging that “in some situations I try to dribble when I should be passing. I lose the ball and get an earful from my teammates. I am working on this”. Attitude is an area many young players fall short with and after his frustration back in the summer, it is good to see he has since shown a level head when it could be all too easy to let arrogance take over. His own personal website, arguably a sign of self-importance, was wisely taken down earlier in the season and Dembele has recently talked of his shyness and preference to stay in and play on his games console rather than go out.

Dembele has expressed admiration for the German and Spanish Leagues and individually picked out Neymar as a player he looks to model himself on. If his extraordinary rise continues at this pace it is not impossible to see him reach that level.

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