The Ousmane Dembélé Question – To Sell or Not to Sell?

The Ousmane Dembélé Question – To Sell or Not to Sell?

Manuel Veth - The Neymar ripple effect has reached Borussia Dortmund. Judging from reports emerging from Spain Barcelona have identified 20-year-old

Manuel Veth –

The Neymar ripple effect has reached Borussia Dortmund. Judging from reports emerging from Spain Barcelona have identified 20-year-old Ousmane Dembélé as the number one replacement for their former Brazilian superstar.

FC Barcelona lost Neymar thanks to his €222 million exit clause, and while the Catalans are now wealthy in financial assets, they also are desperate in finding a replacement for one of the best players on the planet. On the eve of the Neymar transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, the French-based paper L’Equipe announced that Barcelona have already come to personal terms with Dembélé.

Borussia Dortmund heavily denied those reports on Monday, but at the same time, it is no secret that Dembélé has identified Barcelona as his dream destination. Originally, however, Dembélé envisioned to stay at Dortmund for at least two to three years before making a move to a major club.

PSG signing Neymar shows that Qatar has the financial power despite the economic sanctions to remain a global player. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

PSG signing Neymar from Barcelona could cause a ripple effect on the global transfer market. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

With Barcelona banging at the door now would it might be too tempting too risk a move now rather than say no and never get a chance again. Barcelona, after all, have also identified other possible replacements with Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, who was defined by Barça before Neymar left the club, and Juventus’ Paulo Dybala also being favoured by the Barcelona hierarchy.

Barcelona Have Identified Ousmane Dembélé as Neymar’s Successor

Meanwhile, in Dortmund Barcelona’s interest in their star winger has caused some uproar. Die Schwarz-Gelben’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke already told the press that no deal below €100 million would be possible. In truth, the BVB bosses are pointing at a possible Kylian Mbappe deal, who is rumoured to leave Monaco for around €180 million, as the possible benchmark for any future Dembélé transfer.

Whether Barcelona are willing to spend such a large percentage of the money received for Neymar on a 20-year-old French winger, who has had one good season at the top of European football, remains to be seen. But with the transfer market having reached new dimensions the debate in football has made an interesting shift.

Looking at Borussia Dortmund forums the trend is clear. Fans are becoming more dictated by money spend, and millions earned rather than on field success. It is true that Borussia Dortmund are the masters of generating transfer millions.

In recent years Dortmund have earned in the region of €100 million on player transfers, which included the likes of Nuri Sahin, Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa, who were first sold by the club and later brought back. With this strategy in mind, Dortmund has been able to somewhat close the financial gap to the Bundesliga’s big boys Bayern München.

A Dembélé Transfer Would be a Major Financial Windfall

Ousmane Dembélé was brought in by Borussia Dortmund from Stade Rennes for €15 million one season ago. Dortmund could, therefore, generate in the region of €100 million on Dembélé and financially close the gap to Bayern München even further—at least financially.

Especially when one considers that Dortmund may not even have to sign a replacement for the French winger. Given that Dortmund have already spent €20 million on Maximilian Philipp and also have André Schürrle, United States mega-talent Christian Pulisic, as well as 18-year-old Danish winger Jacob Bruun Larsen in their squad signing a new player right away may not be necessary.

Christian Pulisic could be an internal replacement to Ousmane Dembélé. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Christian Pulisic could be an internal replacement to Ousmane Dembélé. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

At the very best Dortmund may sign another young talent—the club is heavily linked to Manchester City winger Jadon Sancho—to fill the squad position left by Dembélé. Instead, the money earned could be used to increase Dortmund’s squad costs in the long term.

Hans-Joachim Watzke, in particular, has pointed out on many occasions that the biggest problem of the league is the fact that Bayern are not only able to buy the most expensive players. But also that the Bavarians can afford to pay wages that are far beyond those of any other Bundesliga side.

Football is More Than Economics

The Bundesliga structure with the 50+1 rule and Dortmund’s policy of not becoming an investor club means that closing that gap is extremely challenging and can only be achieved by buying smart and selling with a massive profit. Dembélé transfer to Barcelona, therefore, makes sense when one looks at the purely economic factors.

But should football be just about pure economics? RB Leipzig, ironically a club driven by marketing ambitions, demonstrated this summer that clubs sometimes have to put on-field success over off field financial gains. Leipzig re-buffed offers for Naby Keïta and Emil Forsberg and with the new signings now look poised to once again challenge for the top of the league.

Dortmund are of course not RB Leipzig. Borussia do not have a billionaire backer, who can laugh off money offered for his best players. At the same time die Schwarz-Gelben should also have the ambitions to challenge Bayern on the field and not just close the gap to them financially. With this in mind, it might be better to hold on to Dembélé for now.

Especially, when one considers that the transfer sums on the transfer market are likely to keep spiralling up in the foreseeable future. Hence, Dembélé will guarantee Dortmund a handsome profit no matter what.

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at He is also a holder of 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 will be available in print soon. 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.