Will Celtic's Moussa Dembele look to progress with a Premier League move?
The transfer window is fast approaching and Brighton look set to make an early breakthrough with the signing of Celtic striker Moussa Dembele. According to Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol, the two clubs have agreed a fee of £18 million for the French striker. The Seagulls had been heavily linked to the player, but it will come as a surprise if a deal has been reached with the Bhoys. The Scottish Premier League club know that the 21-year-old is an asset that continues to increase in value and it could be that this story has been leaked to flush out more interest.
However, the transfer window is rarely clear cut and there are parties operating with different objectives. Every story needs to be treated with caution and The Sun have posted a contradictory report, with Celtic sources branding Sky’s story as ‘nonsense’. This is certainly a story to keep an eye on. The report from Sky may be premature, but they are a reliable source and it does seem like there is some substance to the transfer story.
Brighton fans will understandably be excited about the potential of Dembele, as they are in dire need of more attacking options. Glenn Murray has been their main striker for the first half of the season. Although he is doing well, there are doubts about his ability to be a starting Premier League striker for the long-term. The Seagulls are likely to be in a relegation battle and they need a more reliable source of goals to ensure they do remain out of the bottom three.
During their last seven Premier League matches, Brighton have scored only two goals. An organised defence has allowed them to continue picking up points, but they can’t expect to stay clear of danger unless they score more often. They have some excellent midfield players that are capable of creating chances, such as Davy Propper, Anthony Knockaert and Pascal Gross. If they can bring in a quality striker to help out Murray and chip in with a few goals, they will be in a great position to do well during the second half of the season.
His career to date
The Frenchman first came to England when he joined Fulham as a teenager from Paris Saint Germain.
He initially made headlines for his name, rather than his reputation on the pitch, with the Cottagers losing Mousa Dembele to Tottenham at the same time his younger namesake (a slight spelling difference aside) arrived at Craven Cottage. It was a great piece of scouting from the club and academy director Huw Jennings told BBC Sport why the striker had emerged on their radar:
“When Moussa was 16 there was no doubt he possessed all the raw ingredients you look for in a striker. He’s got pace and power, he can finish, use both feet and he is good in the air. He has got good intelligence.”
“What stood out for me was not only what you could see on the pitch but I felt 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.”
It didn’t take long for Dembele to feature in the first-team, as he made his Premier League debut in November 2013 and featured on one more occasion during the relegation season. The drop to the Championship was a massive blow for the club, but it provided a chance for the young players to make a mark at senior level. The Frenchman grabbed that with both hands and was one of the best young players during the 2015-16 campaign.
He started 37 Championship matches and made a further six appearances from the bench as he began to develop a reputation as one of the best young players in the Football League. Dembele contributed an impressive 15 goals and six assists, with a goal involvement rate of one every 160 minutes. Unluckily for Fulham, he was in the final year of his contract and he opted to move on at the end of the season on a free transfer.
According to BBC Sport, he came close to joining Tottenham during the January transfer window, with a deal being agreed for £5 million. That deal didn’t come to fruition. but it underlines how highly-rated the Frenchman is in the game. He remained with Fulham for the rest of the season before joining Celtic in the summer. It was a decision that raised eyebrows, but he quickly became the best player in the division and the leader of the attack.
A lot of young players have been criticised for making the jump to a big club too soon, but Dembele’s career has been well mapped out and that shows his impressive temperament. Few 16-year-olds would choose to leave PSG to join Fulham, but the striker is determined to make it to the top and he isn’t afraid for it to be a slow journey.
Since joining Celtic, he has continued to develop and his role in their unbeaten domestic season cannot be underplayed, as he registered 27 goals across all domestic competitions. The Scottish league is not as good as it once was, in terms of quality, but it is still a huge responsibility to play for Celtic and Dembele has thrived under that. Brendan Rodgers has been a huge influence on his star striker’s career and believes that he can go to the very top:
“Moussa showed last year that when he’s fit he’s got that capability to play at that level and that’s all you want.
“Now it’s the case of over the next few years consistently showing that he can do that.”
Celtic and Rodgers will be realistic when it comes to their chances of keeping hold of the 21-year-old. The latest links to Brighton may come as a surprise, as it was expected that a bigger club would come in for him. However, his career path to date shows that he is keen to earn his way to the top and prioritises first-team football over club prestige.
In the modern game, a move from Celtic to a bottom-half Premier League club is a step upwards. It is important that Dembele proves himself in one of the top five European leagues and a transfer to the Seagulls would be a logical move for him.