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Dembélé and the delicate business of football

Barcelona’s great dilemma these days has a name: Ousmane Dembélé – a textbook case of how delicate the football business is.

Barça watched Neymar slip out the backdoor for Paris, leaving, of course, 222 million euros on his way out. And as these things go, the club president Josep Bartomeu was subsequently forced to enter the transfer market in the worst way possible: with a lot of money and too much haste.

The club bought Coutinho for 160 million euros last January, knowing more or less what he would bring, and before that Dembélé (105 million euros plus 40 million in add-ons), who has shown both an ability to score incredible goals and frequent acts of indiscipline that are difficult to tolerate.

While some think it is impossible, others hope he can reconcile his behaviour because his potential is enormous. The reality is that he does have things that no other player has but is still a young guy with a teenager’s mentality and a gang of friends surrounding him who are his only reference point. They like to order fast food; the happily play PlayStation until they drop; they wake up only when they remember to. As such, his diet is poor and he has trouble sticking to the rhythm of life and training that he should follow as a professional footballer.

On top of that, he has not integrated with his team mates because he still only speaks French. On one side he has the Brazilians, on another Messi and Suarez, and on another his compatriots Umtiti and Lenglet. Barca have tried to get Umtiti and Lenglet protect him, but they live an orderly family life and can’t look out for him 24/7. Besides that, Umtiti is now out of the picture because of injury. The club also sent a cook to his house to make him and his entourage salads and healthy meals, but they throw them out because they prefer to order fast food instead.

And yet despite all of his disciplinary issues, he still has the ability to the score breath-taking goals. Even so, there are who those who think it would be wise to take an offer of 100 million and be done with him. But he is too good to be abandoned like that – so young and with so much potential.

And so goes the delicate business of football.