A grimace appears on Ousmane Dembele’s face as he heads towards the France bench holding his leg.
That injury, that was picked up in France’s 1-1 draw with Hungary in last year’s Euros, would keep Dembele out for a total of 134 days.
Dembele was brought on in Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev on November 2 for his first appearance of the season.
The crucial thing for Dembele was to keep himself fit and available for the remainder of the campaign.
As November 4 rolls around, Barcelona release this statement: “The first team player Ousmane Dembele has a strain in the semimembranosus muscle of his left hamstring”.
Many people on social media jumped to the conclusion that Dembele’s time at Barcelona was over following his latest injury setback.
Is his injury record at Barca enough to put the likes of Chelsea off when it comes to making a move for the talented winger this summer, though?
“While he’s had a lot of bad injuries, if you look at the past couple of years, there isn’t a reason to be fatalistic about it,” Spanish football expert Sid Lowe tells football.
“The season just gone, he played in the second half of the season where he was fit and actually played really well in a structure that seemed to work for him.”
“He can go from infuriating to awful, sometimes in exactly the same move, but it’s not always just about injuries.”
“I think the improvement in the structure has helped him play better. In a way, the forcing of certain options on him because he’s a player who has sometimes taken bad decisions on the pitch in terms of choosing the wrong pass and so on.”
“I think in a way you can improve that by effectively making it impossible for him to pick the wrong pass. You can obviously never make it completely impossible, but make the options clearer – giving him the exit points that he needs. Obviously, repetition over and over again so it becomes second nature.”
Dembele joined Barcelona in 2017 for a mind-blowing £126million and it’s safe to say he has not lived up to his extortionate price tag since switching from Borussia Dortmund.
There were several questions raised over his attitude, along with his fitness, but this season it seems as if his approach has changed.
“He’s acting like a true professional,” Xavi said on Dembele back in February, with just months remaining on the winger’s deal.
“I’m very happy with him, even when he knew he wasn’t in the squad, he’s been a model professional.”
“I haven’t had the slightest problem with Ousmane. I’ve heard all sorts of things: that he hasn’t been professional and that he hasn’t looked after himself. I can tell you now that it’s the complete opposite, he’s looking after himself, is professional, has been training well, and is positive in and around the group.”
There are numerous external factors that can lead to performance drops on the pitch, or perhaps picking up consistent injuries.
Arriving at Barcelona when he was just 20-years-old, Dembele still had a lot of maturing to do.
Five years on, the Frenchman, with help of Barcelona, has rectified that, it seems.
“I think what Barcelona have done is about lifestyle, it’s about sleeping hours, it’s about looking after him, it’s about trying to see the early signs,” Lowe adds.
“Some of it is very back luck , some of it is not manageable.”
“He added:”This is definitely a coachable player, but it’s definitely a player that can be both absolutely brilliant and not very good at all – and sometimes that’s in the same game.
In terms of his skill set, he’s an extraordinary player.
“He’s genuinely a two-footed, incredibly quick, very, very fast from a standing start and his lateral movement, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. The ability to sort of shift his weight from left to right, going absolutely horizontally, he doesn’t need the step forward to shift, he can literally go side to side.”
“I said this on our podcast, I remember a computer game called Yie Ar Kung-Fu when I was little. There was a character who hopped side to side and that’s what Dembele does now. When facing a defender, he can go left or right and that makes him very difficult to stop.”
He is someone that needs to improve his consistency levels, but he is also someone that can win a game with a single run.
He is someone that can leave defenders looking silly.
Finally, he is someone Chelsea hold a firm interest in with the summer transfer window now open.