Moussa Dembele: The Fulham hotshot linked with England and Germany's big guns
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- Date of birth: July 12, 1996
- Place of birth: Pontoise, France
- Height: 6ft
- Position: Forward
- Current club: Fulham (38 apps, 11 goals)
- Former club(s): PSG
- International: France U20s (3 caps, 0 goals)
Born near Paris and cultivated by the city’s premier team, Moussa Dembele's (no, not that one) footballing formation with Paris Saint-Germain spanned eight years from 2004 to 2012, coming to an end when the youngster was still only 16.
Unfortunately for Dembele and many of his peers, the arrival of Qatar Sports Investments in 2011 put paid to his chances of making it in the first team. Superstars soon followed as the cash flooded into the Ligue 1 side’s coffers, with even the finest of PSG’s academy prospects sent packing.
Speaking in September, a little over a year after leaving the French capital, Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman bemoaned the lack of opportunities for players like Dembele and he. "I think at Paris Saint-Germain, the young players are shoved to one side a little," he told France's Canal+. "They are a club who need to win things immediately and it's not easy to find any room."
Sensing that difficulties lay ahead, Dembele made the snap decision at 16 to swap PSG’s youth system for Fulham in England’s second tier – raising plenty of eyebrows in the process. At the time of his move to London, it seemed as though the highly rated youngster had chosen the long way round. A little over two years after making the switch, however, the 19-year-old’s journey looks to be getting shorter by the week.
Why you need to know him
Dembele’s exploits within the wider strife in which Fulham find themselves have only served to underline his potential
With eight goals and two assists in 15 starts for Fulham this term, Dembele has become one of the most feared strikers in the Championship in spite of his team’s collective struggles.
The capital club are currently plonked between the play-offs and relegation zone, and are without a manager following the recent sacking of Kit Symons. Dembele’s performances within the wider strife in which Fulham find themselves have only served to underline his potential.
Since rising through the ranks to earn himself a starting berth at Craven Cottage, the Frenchman has translated his success at youth level directly to the Championship, earning him admiring glances from higher up the food chain. Reports last month suggested that Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United were among those keeping tabs on the teenager’s progress, while Everton and Tottenham were linked not long previously. Most intriguing, however, is Bayern Munich's mooted interest, with the Bundesliga giants said to have kept scouts behind to watch him after their recent Champions League clash against Arsenal.
Irrespective of his age and experience, Dembele’s key weapons in transitioning from youth to senior football have been his dynamism and physical presence; this may be his debut campaign as a starter, but the Frenchman is already thriving with the physicality and tempo of the professional game.
His heady blend of pace and strength pose a conundrum that has stumped many opposing defenders in 2015/16
His heady blend of pace and strength pose a conundrum that has stumped many opposing defenders in 2015/16, while his predatory instincts are improving by the week. Dembele, indeed, is the only teenager to have scored five or more goals in England’s top two divisions this season. Only four players (Andre Gray, team-mate Ross McCormack, Jordan Rhodes and Nick Blackman) have netted more in the Championship.
The likes of Jamie Vardy and countryman Anthony Martial have shown that directness and velocity can be potent weapons in the Premier League, with Dembele’s explosive running and clinical edge in front of goal likely to leave top-flight scouts and coaches drooling.
Given that he is blessed with innate physical advantages, it would be easy for Dembele to become over-reliant on them. Time and experience should help to alleviate his desire to play the game at full-pelt at all times, and mean he avoids the one-dimensional accusations.
"When Moussa was 16 there was no doubt he possessed all the raw ingredients you look for in a striker," Fulham academy director Huw Jennings told BBC Sport. "What stood out for me was not only what you could see on the pitch, but a calmness and assuredness off the pitch.
"It is not easy coming across from a foreign country at a young age, and the thing Moussa has had to demonstrate more than any others is resilience."
Did you know?
Dembele was part of the France under-19 squad that reached the semi-finals of the 2015 Euros, alongside Bayern's Coman (a former youth team-mate at PSG). He netted in the 3-1 group stage win over Ukraine and then again against Greece, before les Bleus suffered late heartbreak against Spain in the semi-finals.
What happens next?
Dembele’s contract at Craven Cottage expires at the end of the campaign, though Fulham have not given up hope of him signing a new deal
The queue for the 19-year-old’s services seems to be growing by the week as January approaches. As well as the aforementioned Premier League clubs plus Bayern, Roma, Milan and Feyenoord have all been linked with the Parisian prodigy.
Dembele’s contract at Craven Cottage expires at the end of the campaign, though Fulham haven't given up hope of him signing a new deal so that they will at least receive some sort of fair transfer fee when he inevitably moves onto bigger and better things.
With the Football League naming him their Young Player of the Month for October, it's not just potential suitors who have recognised the teenager's ability. With or without a contract extension at Fulham, he will almost certainly be gracing one of Europe’s top divisions in the next 12 months.