The 30-year-old has taken his time in coming to prominence in central midfield but his performances have been at an outstanding standard this year. Mauricio Pochettino said last month that if he and his coaching team had got hold of Mousa Dembele when he was 18 or 19 he would have gone on to become of one the best footballers in the world.
He compared the midfielder to Jay-Jay Okocha, Diego Maradona, Ivan De La Pena and Ronaldinho – all ex-teammates of the Tottenham manager – describing him as one of the five genius players he has had the pleasure of encountering in his career.
Dembele’s ability on the ball has never been in doubt but it has been other factors limiting his potential. As an attacker, when he first came to England, he was not productive enough. He played throughout his time in the Netherlands with AZ as a No. 10 or a wide attacker and was signed with that in mind by Fulham. Gradually his development into a deep-lying player – who often comes into contact with the ball – has taken place over the course of the last three seasons under Pochettino. This calendar year in particular Dembele has found himself as the focus of an increasing appreciation society.
Spurs had a run of tough fixtures a few weeks back in which four of five games came against Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16. Dembele was arguably man of the match in all four. At the Juventus Stadium he ran the show, leaving Sami Khedira memorably trailing in his wake with one second-half shimmy.
Do you agree with Pochettino that he is on Ronaldinho or Maradona’s level or is that just an insult to those legends? Express your passion in the comment section.