Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez was full of praise for forward Ousmane Dembele after seeing his team start their Champions League campaign with a 5-1 win over Viktoria Plzen at the Camp Nou.
Striker Robert Lewandowski stole all the headlines with a hat-trick on his European debut for his new club, but Dembele also impressed and was lauded by his manager, as reported by Football Espana.
“He is happy, enjoying himself, content, he is important for me, for the group… He makes the difference, assists, scores, he is a knife and he is in a good moment,” he said. “I don’t want to shower him in praise but the capacity he has in the one-on-one is at the level of the best Neymar. He has to be more bold, shoot at goal more and score. He is a good kid and he has to take advantage of these characteristics. He is capable of making the difference and he is doing so.”
Dembele finished the game with two assists after teeing up Lewandowski and Ferran Torres on a good night for the Catalans. Summer signing Franck Kessie opened the scoring for the hosts with his first goal for Barca after 13 minutes
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Dembele Reveals Xavi Effect
The French forward had spoken ahead of the game about how the arrival of Xavi at Barcelona had helped turn things around for him at the club. Dembele told Sport what the coach had insisted he improve.
“Xavi talks to me a lot in training, he is very attentive and gives me a lot of advice to improve. The first thing Xavi told me was that I was a very good player, but that I had to improve my mentality,” he said. “That I have talent, but I have to work hard for the team. That I already had the dribbling, one of the two or three actions that I did well, but I had to score more goals and provide many more assists.”
Dembele’s Barcelona career has been disrupted by injury but he has managed to put his physical problems behind in 2022 and become a regular member of the team, finishing last season top of the assists charts in La Liga.
Lewandowski is ‘Unsatiable’
Xavi also spoke about Lewandowksi who took his tally to eight in five games for Barcelona since his summer move from Bayern Munich. The manager made it clear he’s thrilled to have the Poland international in his squad, as reported by Sport.
“Robert is like that, insatiable,” he explained. “I’m delighted by how he trains, how he helps his teammates. He’s humble, he gives orders and he does a great job in pressing. I do not only take the hat trick from this but his work rate and how he dominates all facets of the game.”
Lewandowski’s goals mean he’s become the first player in Champions League history to score hat-tricks for three different clubs in the competition, per Opta. The striker also netted hat-tricks for former clubs Borussia Dortmund and Bayern.