Matt Banks pays a quick homage to a player who made it look so easy.
Mousa Dembélé is set to complete a move to Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F from Tottenham Hotspur, ending a Premier League career that spanned eight and a half years and 242 appearances.
In that time, Dembélé was rarely a player that grabbed the headlines or was seen as one of the league’s best central midfielders. He never had the defensive work-rate of a Kanté, the passing range of a Fabregas or the flair and guile of a David Silva but what he always possessed was the ability to make football look like the easiest bloody thing in the world – and that is an extremely underrated quality.
Built like a tank but with feet like a ballerina, Dembélé would float past players like they weren’t there. For me, there was few prettier sights than watching him calmly dip his shoulder and teasingly waltz past a few players like it was nothing. The way he would read a situation and time his tackle perfectly often went unnoticed, as did his passing. At his best, he was the perfect transitional midfielder, winning the ball back and starting attacks effortlessly.
It is a shame it has to end this way, quietly shipped away to China after only ten appearances in all competitions this season, having not played since early November due to a recurring foot injury. Admittedly when he has played for Spurs this year, he has not looked like the Dembélé of old. He has looked lethargic, like his injuries have finally caught up with him and the pace of the league is too much. However, at the peak of his powers Mousa Dembélé was an absolute force, and unlike any player I have ever seen.
When asked who the best player at Tottenham was, Dele Alli, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks all said it was Dembélé – high praise given the ability in the squad. Manager Mauricio Pochettino even went so far as to say he was “a genius of football.” Despite this, he has never received any individual honours, nor has he appeared in the annual PFA Team of the Year. His talent has been underappreciated by many, but Spurs fans will miss him dearly.
This is because he was the embodiment of Pochettino’s Tottenham – a player with unbelievable talent and skill paired with grit, determination and toughness. Pochettino has led a revolution from the days of “Lads, it’s Tottenham” to a team that is strong and resolute. Dembélé – more so than any other player in his tenure -was representative of this change.
Imagine listening to the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard, only to find out it was made entirely with power tools. That was what watching Mousa Dembélé in his prime was like – a footballing artist that doubled as a battering ram. He was truly a one of a kind player, and one I will miss watching dearly.