Premier League giants Liverpool and Chelsea appear to have dodged a bullet over the signing of Ousmane Dembele after Gary Neville criticised him for his World Cup final performance.
Dembele enjoyed a good World Cup overall, playing in all seven of France’s games and registering two assists on their route to the final. He was selected at his usual position of right wing when France came up against Argentina in the final on Sunday.
This saw the Barcelona attacker face Argentina pair Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Tagliafico.
And Dembele struggled massively as he couldn’t contain the lively Di Maria or get forward to trouble left-back Tagliafico.
To make matters worse for Dembele, he was at fault for Argentina’s penalty in the 23rd minute. He brought down Di Maria in the box after being on the wrong side of the Juventus ace.
The contact was minimal, but Di Maria did enough to win a spot-kick for his nation. And Lionel Messi stepped up to give Argentina the lead.
That was the first twist in a stunning World Cup final which saw Argentina go 2-0 up – at which point Dembele was hauled off by Didier Deschamps and replaced by Randal Kolo Muani. A late Kylian Mbappe brace then dragged France level and took the final to extra time.
Messi thought he had won it for Argentina, only for Mbappe to make it 3-3 from a penalty – forcing the match to go to a shootout.
Argentina triumph to further Lionel Messi legacy
In the end it was Messi and Argentina who were celebrating as Emi Martinez saved Kingsley Woman’s penalty and Aurelian Tchouameni sent his effort wide.
Dembele almost moved to England in the summer as top clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United were all linked with signing him from Barca.
Ultimately, the 25-year-old remained in La Liga by signing a contract extension with Xavi’s side. And it seems like a good thing too, amid Neville’s intense criticism of Dembele.
During an appearance on ITV’s coverage of the World Cup final (via Metro), Neville said: “It’s pathetic [from Dembele].
“Di Maria’s position has stretched Jules Kounde and the French team, they haven’t come to terms with it. It’s a genius selection from the manager so well done to him.
Ousmane Dembele tackle ’embarrassing’
“Dembele, I know he’s a wide player, but honestly, that challenge [for the penalty]. We know what he’s going to do Di Maria, he’s been doing it for 10 years.
“It’s embarrassing from him. I’m a little bit torn because it’s a soft penalty, but you deserve to be found out because of the stupidity of the challenge.
“Dembele gets found out because he gives Di Maria the opportunity. Dembele gets played like a little boy to be fair.”
It is obviously harsh to judge Dembele off one mistake, in this case the foul for Argentina’s penalty. But Dembele also struggled at the other end of the pitch, as France looked lacklustre during the first 40 minutes.
Substitutes Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram – the latter replacing Olivier Giroud – managed to add some energy to the France attack. However, it wasn’t enough and the France fans will now be wondering what next for their national team.