Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

One to watch: Moussa Dembélé

Publish on 17/05/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


Only Kylian Mbappé has scored more Ligue 1 Conforama goals in 2019 than Olympique Lyonnais hotshot Moussa Dembélé, and yet the former Celtic star has gained the unwanted tag of supersub.

Only Kylian Mbappé has scored more Ligue 1 Conforama goals in 2019 than Olympique Lyonnais hotshot Moussa Dembélé, and yet the former Celtic star has gained the unwanted tag of supersub.

The 22-year-old's goal in the 3-0 win at Olympique de Marseille last Sunday was the forward's 10th of the calendar year in the league. Dembélé netted only nine minutes after coming on for skipper Nabil Fekir and it was the fifth time he's stepped off the bench to score this season; hence the temptation for OL coach Bruno Genesio to use him as an impact player.

Man in demand

Up to 14 league goals for the season Dembélé is comfortably the club top scorer, well clear of Martin Terrier and Fekir, who both have nine goals to their name. Dembélé's scoring feats have not gone unnoticed with Britain's The Sun newspaper linking him this week to a 40 million euro move to Manchester United.

Back story: Born in the Paris suburb of Pontoise on July 12 1996, Dembélé joined the Paris Saint-Germain youth system in 2004 and stayed with the capital club until 2012, having featured alongside the likes of Kingsley Coman and Adrien Rabiot at age-group level.

Fulham in London was Dembélé's next port of call and having signed his first professional contract on his 17th birthday in 2013 he made his Premier League debut at the end of November. Fulham were relegated at the end of that season and Dembélé did not become a first-team regular until the 2015-2016 season and 15 goals in 43 Championship (D2) games attracted the attention of Celtic.

Dembélé won two Scottish Premier League titles following his one million euro switch and scored 26 goals in 55 league games as well as shining in the Champions League. In search of a forward to replace the departed Mariano Diaz, OL plumped for Dembélé and the France Under-21s international signed on August 31 2018.

Style of play: Powerfully built, the 1m83 striker moves well for a big man and is a useful out ball for his team. Good in the air, Dembélé took time to settle in at OL and is poised for an even bigger role next season under a new coaching team. His finishing is improving all the time and it would be no surprise to see him bust through the 20-goal barrier next term.

Not a fan of sharing his thoughts in public, Dembélé said: "People might think that with my size and my heading game that I'm more at ease back to goal. But I'm a complete player and I've always loved running in behind, and that's clearly my strong point."

Current campaign: Dembélé's return of 14 Ligue 1 Conforama goals and counting is all the more impressive given that he has only started 19 games. Dembélé took three games to get off the mark, netting a double in the 3-0 win at Dijon in Week 7 and all season long has had to cope with competition from Fekir, Terrier, Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traoré and Maxwel Cornet.

He has weighed in with vital goals, none more so than the stoppage-time winner in the derby at Saint-Etienne on January 20 and was again a late matchwinner at Bordeaux in Week 34, keeping OL on course for a Champions League place.

What you didn't know: Dembélé scored three Champions League goals for Celtic in the group stage in 2016-2017, scoring a double at home to Manchester City in a 3-3 draw. He has one Champions League goal for OL so far, scored in the 2-2 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in October 2018.

Best goal: Certainly the goal that wrote Dembélé into OL legend was his outstanding header to win the game at Saint-Etienne in the 95th minute. Greeting a cross from the right, Dembélé soared between two ASSE defenders to power home a header that left Les Verts goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier stunned.

What he said: "I learnt everything at PSG and that's where I got my bearings in football. It's there that I learnt how to move the ball and score goals. It's there that I established myself and learnt football."
- Speaking to uefa.com in November 2017

What they said: "I played with great forwards like Ronaldo, Henry and Raul. On the big occasions they help you win matches and Dembélé is already showing that quality."
- Zinedine Zidane in November 2016

"He succeeded very quickly and very young in foreign football. He needs to readapt to Ligue 1, which is of a higher level… He stays calm and has confidence in himself, despite the fact he would like to play more."
- Sylvain Ripoll, coach of France Under-21s to Le Parisien in January 2019

"It's simple, Moussa is a striker. He is attracted by the goal and will score goals. He's the prototype of a centre-forward, a bit like Bafétimbi Gomis. Moussa is powerful and fast. He'll be a bit better than Mariano in link-up play. Moussa is a competitor."
- Florian Maurice, OL recruiter, to Le Progrès in January 2019