A year ago Moussa Dembele was linked with a big-money move to Barcelona after banging in 32 goals to fire Celtic to an unbeaten domestic treble. The young Frenchman also held his own against Barca in the Champions League and scored twice against free-spending Man City, so he became one of the hottest properties around. But injury scuppered his chances of a summer move and major clubs are not exactly clamouring for his signature after a comparatively underwhelming second season at Celtic Park. Here are five reasons why he should stay at the club and build his reputation back up:
Leeds Utd are not exactly Barcelona
Barcelona’s interest in Dembele seemed genuine as it was reported by multiple sources, with Spanish outlet Diario Gol even reporting that Lionel Messi had demanded his signature. But with Dembele injured, his namesake – Ousmane, of Borussia Dortmund – ended up moving to the Nou Camp for north of £100 million when Neymar went to PSG. A tussle was developing for his signature, and Chelsea were also linked with a January move as they hoped to clinch the Premier League title. But fast forward a year and Dembele has only netted 10 times in 29 games, and interest has totally cooled from the big clubs. Now he is being linked with a move to Leeds Utd, which is unlikely to get his pulse racing. Considering he left Fulham, a club of a similar stature, to join Celtic, he is unlikely to be too keen on returning to the Championship south of the border. Instead Dembele should stay at Celtic, rediscover his best form and earn a move to a big club a couple of years down the line.
Bulking out his trophy cabinet
Celtic have been absolutely dominant in Scotland over the last few years and look set to win another treble this season. They have already won the League Cup and they are streets ahead in the football betting markets to win the league and the cup. Much has been made of Rangers’ recent renaissance, but there is no doubt that Celtic are a vastly superior team. They have not lost to Rangers since 2012 and have regularly thrashed them in the last couple of years, while the Hoops are also miles ahead of teams like Aberdeen, Hibs and Hearts. They have only lost once in two years in Scotland and should be good for plenty more trophies in the years ahead. When players look back on their career, they will remember the trophies they lifted, and Dembele is virtually guaranteed silverware at Celtic.
He is still young
It feels like Dembele has been around for ages because he burst onto the scene all the way back in 2013 for Fulham. But Dembele is still just 21 years of age and has a good 12 years ahead of him before he hangs up his boots, so he can bide his time for a little while. There is no need to rush into a move to an average team, when he could hold out for a move to a bigger club in a year or two. He has the perfect environment in which to thrive at Celtic: strong creative players like Scott Sinclair teeing up chances for him, defences of limited ability to terrorise and the trust of a coach who is strong at fostering young talent. He can improve greatly as a player by starting for Celtic over the next couple of years, but that might not be the case if he ends up on the bench of an EPL or Ligue 1 club. Enjoying a regular starting berth will also further his chances of breaking into the France squad.
More European adventures
The best way for a young star to put himself in the shop window is by lighting up Europe, and Dembele should get plenty more chances to make a splash in the Champions League and Europa League, if he stays at the club. The Hoops’ Europa League exit at the hands of Zenit is disappointing, particularly after they were humbled by PSG and Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage. But they have shown they can cut it in Europe in recent years, and will surely be back for further adventures. If Dembele can put in more performances like the one he gave against Man City, the big clubs will come back in for him, and it will massively benefit Celtic in the meantime.
Earn the respect of the fans
If Dembele were to leave now, he would not exactly be remembered as a Celtic legend by the fans. A talented youngster and a strong finisher, certainly, but not one of the all-time greats. However, if he recaptures his best form and bangs in more than 100 goals for the Hoops over the next few years, he could start to think about being mentioned in the same breath as Henrik Larsson. The Swede regularly resisted moves away from the club and ended up a Champions League winner with Barcelona, while he is also fondly remembered as the greatest player in Celtic history, and Larsson would be a strong role model for the precocious young Dembele.