Barcelona star Ousmane Dembele, who was once likened to Cristiano Ronaldo and lauded by teammate Lionel Messi, is expecting a resurgent season with new coach Ronald Koeman, a report from Spain said.
Signed by Barcelona in 2017 via a massive transfer deal worth £135 million ($175 million), Dembele was once a promising star at Camp Nou. However, multiples injuries continuously hindered his progress, leading to him being considered a flop signing.
Despite having an inconsistent run with the Catalans, Dembele remains positive about his situation. The Frenchman is now highly motivated by the arrival of Koeman, a coach who “values the intensity of training,” Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo reported.
Three weeks after receiving medical clearance in Lisbon on Aug. 13, Dembele is now feeling “stronger” physically. Mentally, he has learned to think positively after being under-fire for roughly two years.
But ultimately, Dembele has found a new motivation with Koeman now on board as the new Barcelona coach. The once remarkable forward is confident that he can excel with the Dutch manager, whom he believes is a fan of fast and “daring” wingers, the report said.
Dembele is getting help from Koeman’s technical staff to make him feel more “secure.” One specialist in strength work and injury prevention has been testing his limits with “intense physical work.”
The 23-year-old has not made an appearance for Barcelona since Nov. 27 when he suffered a hamstring injury during a 3-1 win over former club Borussia Dortmund. In February, he sustained a complete proximal hamstring tear in his right thigh after returning to training.
Dembele has long been touted as a future superstar. In 2016, when Dembele was still a teenager, then-Rennes sporting director Mikael Silvestre compared him to a young Ronaldo.
“I saw Cristiano Ronaldo arrive at the same age at Manchester United, and Ousmane has the same characteristics, which remind me of a young Cristiano,” Silvestre told ESPN.
Barcelona captain Messi also saw potential in Dembele. In December 2018, the Argentine icon backed Dembele amid controversies regarding his teammate’s attitude.
According to Messi, Dembele has already learned his mistakes and is a “phenomenon” who could be one of the best players in the world.
“On the pitch (Dembele) is a phenomenon and it depends on him (how good he becomes),” Messi told Marca. “He has all the opportunity in the world to do what he wants. He can be one of the best.
“On the other hand, he’s a young guy who is adapting to the city and the club,” he added. “He has already realized his mistakes and has rectified them. We are going to help him focus on football.”