Dembele's Barca career had 'turning point' in Benfica clash, says France legend

Robin Bairner
Ousmane Dembele playing against Benfica in the Champions League

Barcelona attacker Ousmane Dembele’s life at Camp Nou is about to get dramatically better, according to France international legend Robert Pires.

Since making a monster €105 million move from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, Dembele has largely failed to realise his potential at Camp Nou. This has been because of a succession of injuries rather than a loss of form or confidence.

The 2021/22 campaign has followed that sad path, with the winger making just his second appearance of the season on Tuesday as Barca drew 0-0 with Benfica in a critical Champions League encounter. Dembele has yet to play an hour of competitive football this season.

Indeed, Xavi even admitted that he was taking a “risk” by deploying the France star in that game.

Pires, who earned acclaim largely for spells at Arsenal and Villarreal, as well as the national team, has backed his compatriot to come good at Barcelona – and he says that the chance to feature against Benfica was just what the player needed.

“For me, Dembele is one of the best players that we have in France,” he told Sport. “It’s clear that with his injury history, he has to take great care of himself, but the life of a footballer is like that.

I think that what happened at Camp Nou the other day, coming onto the field and receiving so much love from the fans, that is going to help him
- Robert Pires

“You have to be lucky, yet, but above all you have to take care of yourself.

“I think that what happened at Camp Nou the other day, coming onto the field and receiving so much love from the fans, that is going to help him. For a player, on a mental level, that is vital.

“What happened on Tuesday at Camp Nou is a turning point.”

Dembele backed to come good at Barca

Ousmane Dembele playing against Dinamo Kiev in the Champions League

Pires admits that the issues will be difficult – but not impossible – for Dembele to overcome.

“His injuries are difficult to control, we already know that,” he added. “It’s something you think about when you return to the field when you recover. It does not go out of your head.

A footballer’s body is like a Formula 1 car, you have to take care of it.
- Robert Pires

“A footballer’s body is like a Formula 1 car, you have to take care of it.

“Ousmane know that he has to eat well, drink well and get proper rest. With the experience he has and the lessons he has learned, I hope it won’t happen again.

“Look, if he respects his injuries, Dembele will become very, very good.”

Dembele will be hoping to earn more minutes this weekend, when Barcelona face Pires’ former club Villarreal on Saturday.