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On Cristiano Ronaldo, Ousmane Dembélé and Marco Asensio


Atlético Madrid president Enrique Cerezo said a while back that footballers play wherever they, and only they, choose to play. And until not long ago that was the case. Cerezo’s remark reminded me of something Spanish journalist Iñaki Gabilondo once said about former striker Christian Vieri, the gist of which was this: Vieri wasn’t part of a transfer-market dynamic in which clubs move players on; in the Italian’s case, it was he who moved the clubs on. He seemed to come and go as he pleased. In Spain, he played for Atlético and scored one of the club’s greatest ever goals. Before then, he had spells at Torino, Pisa, Ravenna, Venezia, Atalanta and Juventus; after leaving Atleti, he played for Lazio, Inter, AC Milan, Monaco, Atalanta, Fiorentina and, once more, Atalanta.

Dembélé saga is a case of a player over-egging his own power

It seems harder to a do a Vieri now, and it’s worth discussing. Something has been shifting - history is cyclical - and Europe’s heavyweight clubs are recovering their power over players. Or, put another way, stars (well, their agents) are so overplaying their hand in the belief they can go where they like, that they are swinging for the fences and hitting only thin air. That’s certainly the case of Ousmane Dembélé, who didn’t want to extend his Barcelona deal, however much praise Joan Laporta and Xavi heaped on him - and boy, did they heap praise on him. Dembélé and his agent were convinced that outside Barça they’d be welcomed into the land of milk and honey, and that he’d get whatever exorbitant salary he wanted as he was out of contract. But he has ended up renewing with Barça on reduced terms.

Cristiano and Asensio also fail to find better offer

Cristiano Ronaldo and Marco Asensio have also taken that ill-fated path - and are in a weaker position than Dembélé was, as they’ve still got a year left on their contracts. Represented by Jorge Mendes, both have sought offers that would improve their lot. Cristiano wants to be at a Champions League club so he can amass yet more appearances and goals in the competition. To boost his World Cup prospects, Asensio wants a guaranteed starting spot (which Cristiano will have wherever he goes, because he is who he is and he has earned it). But neither has found a new club. As the summer progresses, Asensio remains at Madrid and at the back of the queue for the right-wing spot, and Cristiano’s attempts to leave Manchester United have so far only created strife at Atlético.