Manuel Veth –
It has been a complicated transfer window for Bayern München. Although Bayern have already signed defenders Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Pavard, other targets have either opted to sign elsewhere (Rodrigo) or a still considering their options. Leroy Sané falls into the latter category and with Bayern desperate to add a winger this summer have now been linked with Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembélé.
Ousmane Dembélé is no stranger to Bundesliga fans. The French winger both dazzled but also frustrated Borussia Dortmund fans during the 2016/17 season. Scoring six goals and 13 assists in 32 Bundesliga games for the Black and Yellows the then 18-year-old quickly rose to become one of the most demand teenagers in world football.
Initially, Borussia Dortmund had hoped that they could hang on to the winger, who they signed for just €15 million from Stade Rennes for a few years at least. But then came Neymar’s €222 million transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.
Overnight the European transfer market had been transformed, and Barcelona left with plenty of cash needed to find a replacement for the Brazilian superstar. They settled on Ousmane Dembélé.
At first, Borussia Dortmund tried to withstand the transfer. But a strike by the winger and Barcelona’s desperate situation meant that the two parties eventually settled for a deal worth €105 million that has since increased to €125 million thanks to various bonus payments.
Financially, it was a good piece of business for Dortmund. At the same time, it left a bitter taste. Dembélé, after all, did not act professionally during the entire negotiation process and even refused to practice with the club.
Ousmane Dembélé – What did Bayern say about the deal?
Meanwhile in Munich Bayern President Uli Hoeneß had his own opinion on the transfer. “They are smart,” Hoeneß said about how Dortmund handled the process. “For every day he misses a day of practice I would fine him €100,000. We can’t treat players like they are gods if they don’t behave like gods,” Hoeneß added at the time.
Hoeneß also criticised Barcelona. “If they are behind the strike than that is very amateur, in that case, I have lost all my respect for that club,” said Hoeneß. “I don’t believe Barcelona were behind the strike,” CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “He probably cooked that up himself. I don’t think we should judge Barcelona to early,” he added.
Did Bayern leave a backdoor open for a potential deal? After all, Hoeneß told the media one year later that he would have “never sold Dembélé. We are not registered at the stock exchange; we can refuse a deal worth €100 million,” Hoeneß added.
Now two years later Bayern could open the door for a major investment to bring back Ousmane Dembélé to the Bundesliga. With Bayern finding it increasingly difficult to convince Leroy Sané to return to Germany Sport Bild and kicker reported on Wednesday that the club have identified Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé as a potential backup plan.
Not that Dembélé would come any cheaper than Sané. In fact, according to Sport Bild Bayern expect that the entire package could cost the club between €175 million and €200 million (transfer sum and salary over five years). It is a significant investment that becomes only possible because Barcelona need to generate cash to sign Antoine Griezmann and potentially bring back Neymar.
There is another caveat. Borussia Dortmund would significantly benefit from a potential deal that would bring the 22-year-old Dembélé back to Germany. As part of the transfer to Barcelona Dortmund will receive 20% of any deal or a maximum sum of €17 million.
Given the amount of money at stake and the complications that Bayern have faced on the transfer market that part remains just a footnote. Because the bottom-line is Bayern have looked for a player like Ousmane Dembélé ever since he dazzled for Dortmund two years ago.
Dembélé and later Jadon Sancho were the reason why Bayern have signed Alphonso Davies and have targeted Callum Hudson-Odoi. They were looking for a winger with both speed and the ability to turn defenders inside out. They believed that in Leroy Sané, another player the club had initially let get away, could be the solution.
Now, however, the original player could be on the market, and a potential deal could cut through Bayern’s transfer jam like a knife through a Gordian knot. The question, however, is what could Ousmane Dembélé add to the squad and how does he compare to Bayern’s Plan A Leroy Sané?
Ousmane Dembélé – By the numbers
Despite a season of ups and downs at Barca Dembélé’s numbers have been decent. The winger managed 14 goals and nine assists in 42 games across all competitions for Barca this season. In comparison, the one year older Sané managed 16 goals and 18 assists in 47 games for Manchester City this season.
Sané leads the way in terms of scoring and assists. But Dembélé can play on both wings and while Sané is more of a sprinter also likes to fall back to pace up with the ball on his feet.
When comparing Ousmane Dembélé with Bayern’s current wingers Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Alphonso Davies as well as with Leroy Sané — using last season’s statistics from Wyscout only — the following numbers stick out. Dembélé ranks third behind Coman (12.51) and Davies (10.83) with 9.8 successful attacking actions.
In terms of goals per 90 minutes, Dembélé ranks second with 0.47 together with Gnabry behind Sané’s 0.54 goals per 90 minutes. Meanwhile, both Sané (0.35) and Davies (0.25) rank ahead of Dembélé’s 0.24 assists per 90 minutes. Keeping in mind that Davies played some of this season in Major League Soccer and the Regionalliga Bayern Dembélé would be an upgrade to the existing squad but in terms of production would rank behind Sané.
Meanwhile, in terms of dribblings Dembélé (8.68) ranks ahead of Sané’s 7.72 dribblings per 90 minutes. Dembélé, however, seeks the one-v-one situation less often than Davies (12.79 per 90 minutes) and Coman (11.99 per 90 minutes) but in terms of completed dribbles (74.22%) is only outranked by Coman (75.22%) — Sané managed to complete 70.49% of his dribblings last season.
When it comes to passing Ousmane, Dembélé also compares well to the current Bayern squad and Leroy Sané. In terms of key passes per 90 minutes, Dembélé ranks second behind Coman (0.78) with 0.68 key passes played per 90 minutes last season. In fact, Sané ranks last among the five wingers on the list with 0.43 key passes per 90 minutes. Finally, in terms of accurate passes to the final third Dembélé is once again second, this time Serge Gnabry’s 83.16% completed passes into the final third outranks Dembélé’s 80.77%.
Nonetheless, Dembélé not only compares well with the current wingers in Bayern’s squad but he also outranks Sané in certain categories. Sané, however, has been more prolific than his French national team counter-part this season and in terms of price, both players will be an expensive investment for Bayern München this summer.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.