In-demand Dembélé to deliver for Lyon?
By A. Scott
Olympique Lyonnais insist that the in-demand Moussa Dembélé will be going nowhere this month, and the striker will surely have a key role to play if Rudi Garcia’s side are to turn their stumbling season around.
It is not often that a club is compelled to issue an official statement on the basis of media speculation about a player's future, but that is what Lyon did last week as they underlined their determination to keep hold of Dembélé, just a year and a half after signing the striker from Celtic for a reported fee of 22 million euros - even if they could realistically expect to triple their money by cashing in now.
"Olympique Lyonnais have become aware of some media reports suggesting that Moussa Dembélé may be of interest to other clubs during the January transfer window," said the OL statement during the winter break.
"We would like to reaffirm our wish, as we did in the summer of 2019, to keep Moussa Dembélé. The club has full confidence in Moussa and is counting on him in particular as we aim to build a successful team for the coming seasons."
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The France under-21 international, whose contract at the Groupama Stadium runs until 2023, has since responded by scoring a brace in the 7-0 demolition of Bourg-en-Bresse in the Coupe de France and then netting the opener in Wednesday's 3-1 defeat of Stade Brestois 29 that took OL into the semi-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue.
That goal was his 13th of the campaign in total, leaving him well on course to better last season's overall tally of 20. Little wonder the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea are being linked with the forward born in the Paris suburbs, that great hotbed of footballing talent.
The last two morale-boosting results have given Garcia's team just the start they wanted to the new year, but the pressure is on them heading into Saturday's trip to Girondins de Bordeaux. OL spent the winter break in 12th place in the Ligue 1 Conforama table, having won just seven of their opening 19 games. However, they were only three points off FC Nantes in fifth position and their goal difference of +11 was the best in the division behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
Need to improve
The run of seven successive league titles may be fading into a distant memory now, but Lyon have not finished outside the top five since 1998, and have come lower than fourth just once in that time. A mid-table finish this time is unthinkable for a club of their ambitions - not to mention a run to the last 16 of the Champions League is worth in the region of 50 million euros before broadcasting income and gate receipts are taken into account.
There is, then, an urgent need for Lyon to improve in 2020 after concluding the old year with just one win in their last four league outings, but the club are still coming to terms with losing both captain Memphis Depay and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde to serious knee injuries shortly before the winter break. Neither is expected to play again this season and Depay's loss is an especially major blow, with the Dutchman having scored 14 times in the first half of the campaign.
Crucially, five of Depay's goals came in the UEFA Champions League group stage, helping take Lyon through to the knockout phase. Dembélé, meanwhile, has not found the net in Europe this season and will need to step up when OL take on Juventus in the last 16.
New faces coming in?
In the meantime, Lyon have been moving to strengthen their squad in the January window, including an approach to bring the Cameroon international forward Karl Toko-Ekambi, formerly of Angers SCO, back to French football from Villarreal. But president Jean-Michel Aulas reiterated this week that Dembélé is going nowhere.
"He will not leave. He wants to stay and win something with Lyon. There have been offers for him, but no player we want to keep will leave in January," Aulas said, and he will now hope that Dembélé - without a league goal since November 23 - can shut out the transfer speculation and deliver for a team in need.