This January transfer window, Fulham’s most prized possession, the young French striker , has been linked with a host of clubs.
From the storied Italian champions Juventus to the luxury of Monaco; from German heavyweights Wolfsburg to the Cottager’s London rivals Tottenham, as reported by ESPN FC.
Despite copious amounts of speculation, there is only one place that Dembele truly belongs: by the banks of the River Thames at Craven Cottage.
The Frenchman joined Fulham FC back in the summer of 2012 from the prestigious academy of Paris Saint Germain as an exciting 16 year old prospect.
The precocious striker truly broke onto the scene in the 2013/14 season, scoring 23 goals in 17 appearances for the under-18s, leading the side to the FA Youth Cup Final. He also made his first Premier League appearance in Martin Jol’s last game in charge of Fulham; a 3-0 away loss to West Ham.
Immediately after Fulham’s relegation in 2014, Dembele featured sparsely in the side. However, during the Cottagers’ second season in the Championship, he truly flourished.
The 2015/16 season started brightly when he bagged his first league goal in the 2-1 home win over Blackburn, and Dembele never looked back.
He scored vital goals in the derbies against Queens Park Rangers and Brentford, and also recorded a brace in the 4-1 thumping of Bristol City. Dembele has notched 11 goals to date this season, an impressive tally that lands him 7th in the league.
But regrettably, with this impressive success has also come interest from top sides. Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly interested, as well as Wolfsburg, Manchester United, Monaco, and even Italian champions Juventus.
Although these big names might be tempting for Dembele, the best option would be to extend his contract and remain at Fulham.
Take the case of Patrick Roberts, for instance. The winger, formerly of Fulham, was signed for the hefty fee of 12 million pounds by Premier League giants Manchester City in the summer.
Roberts was a bright talent with the Cottagers, and also featured prominently in the side that reached the FA Youth Cup Final. However, his massive step up to City has been underwhelming to say the least.
He has so far played a grand total of four minutes in the Premier League, with his only top flight action coming as a substitute in the 86th minute of the 4-1 loss to Tottenham, when the Citizens were already well beaten.
The irony of the situation is that Roberts would have been guaranteed first team football at Fulham this year. Instead, his career is stagnating at a crucial moment in his development. Moussa Dembele would do well to learn from the mistakes of his former team-mate.
Although at the moment Fulham’s position looks precarious, the future in SW6 is brighter than it seems. The club do sit dangerously close to the relegation places, and are under a transfer embargo, yet the acquisition of new manager Slavisa Jokanovic was a brilliant move, and surely should play a part in Dembele’s decision.
The Whites have the services of someone who has experience in the Championship and is a quality, modern manager. Promotion is an unrealistic target this year, but there is no reason Fulham cannot be promoted the season after.
By that time, Jokanovic will have had a chance to instill his values and playing style on the squad and shore up the club’s leaky defence. If Dembele stays, he can continue his prolific strike partnership with Ross McCormack, and with their goals, hopefully propel Fulham into the top flight.
In essence, the decision boils down to the desire to take a major leap too soon in a player’s career. Moving to a Champions League club that commands a global following is tempting, but Moussa Dembele should exercise shrewd judgement.
At Fulham he is a fan favorite who is extremely popular and is one of the first names on the team-sheet. Fulham is the club that brought him to English football and gave him his first taste of first team action. Dembele is truly appreciated at Craven Cottage, yet the same cannot be said for any of the clubs he has been linked with.
He will go from being the centre of attention to being an afterthought, a player signed just to fill up homegrown player obligations. Just as Clint Dempsey transferred to Tottenham in 2012, he faded from the main act at Craven Cottage to being a side dish at White Hart Lane. Dempsey’s career never recovered.
In five years time, Moussa Dembele’s career could be very different. One path could leave him as a fringe player at Tottenham Hotspur, playing in the Europa League and Capital One Cup but never cracking the first team.
He becomes one of the players you look at and shake your head, rueing the waste of such potential. All Dembele represents now is a punchline of a cheeky chant, “There’s only two Moussa Dembeles”.
But the other route is a more fruitful one. Moussa Dembele is an established Premier League goalscorer with Fulham FC, after having led them into the top flight in 2017.
He makes up a solid core of Fulham players reaching their prime along with Emerson Hyndman, Alexander Kacaniklic, and George Williams. The future looks bright for the French international, and the goals keep flowing in at the Cottage.
Let us hope Moussa Dembele chooses the second option. If so, the possibilities for success are endless. Come on Fulham!
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