Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele has given a rare interview where he’s discussed what it’s like to play with Lionel Messi at the Camp Nou.
The 23-year-old has returned to full fitness and form this season and has become a regular in attack alongside Messi and Antoine Griezmann. Dembele spoke to UEFA about how he feels it’s “an honor” to play alongside Messi, who he considers the greatest footballer in history, in an interview broadcast on Barca TV.
Leo is a genius, we all know about him, he’s a genius, he’s the best player in the history of football. He inspired me when I was young, he inpires me now and it’s honestly an honor for me to play alongside him.
As I said I’m proud and honored. Being a Barcelona fan since I was a child, playing alongside the best player in the club’s history is extraordinary. On top of that I feel it’s easy to play with him. He always finds the right pass, he tries to put you in the best position. He is an outstanding player. There will only every be one player like that in football.
Dembele made his 100th appearance for Barca on Saturday night when he came off the bench in the club’s 5-1 La Liga win over Alaves. Messi scored twice in the match on a night where he made his 505th league outing for the Catalan giants, matching Xavi at the top of the club’s all-time appearance list in La Liga.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 14, 2021
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Dembele Discusses Physical Issues
There’s no doubt that Dembele has had a tough time at Barcelona since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. The forward has been plagued by injuries that have seen him sidelined for long spells.
The Frenchman has managed to return to full fitness in 2020-21 and feature regularly for the Catalan giants, making 26 appearances so far this campaign, and he also discussed how he has worked hard to overcome his injury problems.
Physically I think when I came here I was very frail. Even when I was starting out professionally at Stade Rennais and Borussia Dortmund, I was very frail, but I’ve come on a long way here at Barcelona with the physical trainers. My way of training, my way of preparing for matches, it’s all changed.
Dembele also revealed he has received plenty of advice on his style of play. The youngster is a brilliant dribbler of the ball, blessed with phenomenal pace and balance, but says he’s learned when to run with the ball and when to choose another option.
Advice on positions, especially, advice on positioning, when to attack, when to calm the game down, when to play a pass, it’s mostly these things. I like dribbling, I like to go forward all by myself when I’ve got the ball, so they sometimes tell me to calm down, to play the ball back, to wait for a team-mate and not to always try to dribble past three or four players.
The Barcelona star has scored six goals and contributed four assists so far in 2020-21.
Dembele Talks PSG Tie
Barcelona and Dembele’s next fixture is a Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain at the Camp Nou. The two teams meet in the last-16 in a tie that will bring back memories of their epic encounter in 2017.
Barca ran out 6-5 winners on aggregate after overturning a 4-0 first-leg loss in Paris with an incredible comeback in the return fixture at the Camp Nou. Dembele knows that the Ligue 1 champions will provide a stern test once again.
There will be revenge in the air due to the media trying to spice up things. However, we don’t talk about it in the squad because we know it’ll be a difficult game. We know Paris, they the current Champions League runners-up. They’re amongst the favorites to win the trophy.
Dembele has been in fine form in Europe’s top competition for Barcelona this season. The Frenchman has three goals and two assists in just four matches, scoring home and away against Ferencvaros as well as in a 2-0 victory over Juventus in Turin.