Sports

Xavi: Barcelona youngster ‘does the same things as Zidane, Maradona and Pele’

Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez has this evening reserved special praise for Blaugrana winger Ousmane Dembele, following the Frenchman’s difficult debut campaign at the Camp Nou.

In-demand

21-year-old Dembele enjoyed a stellar season for Borussia Dortmund in 2016/17, cementing himself as one of world football’s most coveted young stars.

A return of 10 goals and a staggering 21 assists in his debut campaign at the Westfalenstadion left Europe’s top sides scrambling for the services of the wing wizard, with La Liga giants Barcelona having sought out the Frenchman to replace Neymar, following his move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Done deal

Following months of speculation, Dembele finally completed his long-anticipated move to the Blaugrana in August for a then-club-record fee potentially rising to almost 150 million Euro.

However, the youngster’s time at the Camp Nou has not gone exactly according to plan since, with a number of injuries having restricted Dembele to just 14 starts across all competitions this past season.

The 13-time capped French international has showcased flashes of his undoubted brilliance during his time on the pitch with the Blaugrana, including a stunning finish in the Champions League round of 16 versus Chelsea, a brace versus Villarreal last month, and 6 assists during limited minutes in La Liga, but, overall, Dembele has not yet proven to Barcelona’s fans exactly what he is capable of when fully fit and firing.

Barcelona Chelsea Courtois

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MARCH 14: Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona celebrates with Lionel Messi as he scores their second goal as Thibaut Courtois and N’Golo Kante of Chelsea look dejected during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC at Camp Nou on March 14, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

‘Humility and desire to work hard’

As such, despite Barca having splashed out such a massive fee on the blistering winger just 10 months ago, Dembele has already been heavily linked with a departure from the Camp Nou, with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea touted as potential destinations.

The La Liga champions have since moved to vehemently deny rumours of an impending exit for Dembele, though, with club legend Xavi Hernandez having this evening backed the French youngster to succeed in Catalunya, comparing his abilities with those of some of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch.

Speaking in an interview with Journal du Dimanche, the Spaniard explained:

‘He came to the club with a lot of pressure, when he needed time to mature.’

‘Barca are a very demanding challenge for a young player. His humility and desire to work hard play in his favour.’

‘He does the same things as (Alfredo) Di Stefano, Pele, (Johan) Cruyff, (Diego) Maradona or Zidane at a time when the game doesn’t give you as much time to think as before.’

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