Born in Pontoise, France, the 6ft striker’s footballing adventure began to flourish when he joined the youth system of Ligue 1 big boys Paris Saint-Germain in 2004.
After the large outlay on footballing superstars at Parc des Princes, such as the arrivals of Zlatan Imbrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi, the then 16-year-old departed the club in search for a new home to hone his skills.
In August, 2002, Dembele joined Fulham for a fee of around £300,000, which was seen as quite a coup for the London side, with the Frenchman boasting labels such as ‘the new Thierry Henry’.
In his first season with the club, he became a regular of the club’s under-18 side, which won the Premier Academy League, and signed his first professional contract with the Cottagers in the summer of 2013. In the November of that year, he made his Premier League debut as substitute against West Ham United.
After Fulham were relegated to the Championship, Dembele was granted further first-team opportunities. Although he failed to open his league account in the 2013/14 season, he did manage to score his first professional goals in the fourth round of the League Cup, grabbing a brace in his team’s 5-2 loss to fellow Championship side Derby County.
This season has however started much brighter for the hot prospect, earning a host of admirers with a string of impressive performances. In just twenty-three appearances, the France youth international has amassed nine goals, whilst also creating seventeen chances for his side.
With all those goals coming from inside the box, eight of those with his right foot, the big man has showed predatory instinct around the opposition’s goal. Comfortable as the lead striker or a part of a front three, the youngster has an abundance of pace that makes him a handful for any defence in the Championship. He accompanies his speed with power and intelligence, and is as comfortable with the ball at his feet as he is with the ball in the air.
Although his modest shot accuracy of 59% will need to improve, his first campaign as a mainstay within the first-team has been an exciting start to his professional career – and in October he was awarded the Football League Young Player of the Month.
Internationally, Dembele has represented the French youth sides from the under-16’s up to the under-20’s, and it is widely expected he will make the step up to both the under-21 and senior French squads. His finest moment for Les Bleus came during the 2015 European Under-19 Championships, where he was apart of the squad that reach the competition’s semi-final, scoring crucial goals in group stage victories over hosts Greece and Ukraine.
What do the experts say:
Fulham Academy director, Huw Jennings: “He’s got pace and power, he can finish, use both feet and he is good in the air. He has got good intelligence.”
Former Fulham manager, Kit Symons: “He’s got pace, power and strength and he scares the life out of defenders. He’s a proper handful, and will only get better.”
Head of Youth Development for the Football League, David Wetherall: “To score regularly in the Championship at just 19 years of age suggests Moussa has the talent to go far, and with the right application there is no reason why he can’t go on and have a very successful career in the game.”
Where does the future lie?
After an impressive campaign so far, interest is starting to grow over the youngster. Top of the list of possible suitors are Premier League big boys Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool, whilst Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace have also been reported to have an admiration for the striker.
With just six-months remaining on his contract, the London side are left in a predicament of how to manage the ongoing situation, with the potential that Dembele could leave the club for a compensation fee when his deal expires.
Resilient over the prospect of keeping the big man at Craven Cottage, new Fulham boss Slavisa Jakanovic has sworn to fight off the interested parties, declaring: “I don’t come here to sell key players. There is no green light to allow this guy to go another club. He is going to continue to be a part of the business – and that’s it.”
It is unlikely that Dembele will stay at Fulham though, and with the club’s transfer embargo meaning they can’t bring in fresh blood this transfer window, perhaps their best hope regarding the situation is letting the starlet run down his contract and sign for a Premier League side in the summer – which could yield a significant compensation packet due to his age.
Daniel Roberts, @djroberts22