By Ralph Chery
With their two ages combined they’re still younger than young coach Zinedine Zidane but Barcelona new signing Ousmane Dembele and Real Madrid breakthrough starlet Marco Asensio have been the most talked about La Liga players this week.
Asensio grew into one of the most prominent rising star in world football after putting up recent stellar performances for Los Blancos.
“There’s a world between me and Neymar,” Dembele said about filling the Brazilian star’s shoe. “Neymar is one of the best players in the world. He’s a great player. I’m very young and played at a professional level for only two seasons. I learn every day. I’m only 20. I increase my level day after day. I came here to grow up even more.”
Dembele started his professional career with Rennes in 2015 in which he netted 12 goals in 25 appearances and won Ligue 1 Player of the Year. His contribution for the French club caught the eyes of giant German club, Borussia Dortmund. The winger signed a five-year contract with Dortmund on May 12, 2016.
The Frenchman starred in his first season in Germany as he was named Rookie of the Season and made the team of the season. Two of his most notable games are the DFB-Pokal semifinal against Bayern Munich, in which he netted the game-winning goal and in the 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the final when he scored the opener and was named Man of the Match.
Hence the 20-year-old was arguably the most valuable player in Dortmund’s first silverware in seven years.
Barcelona center back, Samuel Umtiti, who’s also Dembele’s teammate at the international level with France, noted that the youngster has what it takes to replace Neymar.
“I’m very glad he’s joining us. He is the type of player that we have missed since Neymar left,” Umtiti said. “He’s a very carefree person in relation to everything that happens, in relation to the talent he has. It’s one of his strengths and I hope he will help us to win titles.”
“I cannot wait to see him. He’s a player who will demonstrate his talent in our team, in our league.”
However Dembele’s ex-Borussia teammate, Marc Bartra, explained that the midfielder is too young to be compared to Neymar.
“Dembele is a pure talent, it’s a great signing,” Bartra said. “I know this from everything he has brought us last year [at Dortmund]. He is a very good player but he needs patience. He’s very young and he cannot be compared to anyone — Neymar is among the best three players in the world.”
Dembele’s fellow prodigy Asensio was loaned to Mallorca and Espanyol consecutively after signing with Madrid in 2014. He netted only seven goals in his two seasons on loan. But when he returned to Real in the 2016-17 season he scored in his first game back against Sevilla, which was a 25-yard screamer.
Asensio was in and out of Zidane’s rotation in that season, starting 21 games and coming off the bench 21 times too; however he tallied six assists and 10 goals, one of which was in the UEFA Champions League final against Juventus.
The Spain international wasn’t regarded as one of the most talented young players in the world then. It wasn’t until the beginning of the season that the 21-year-old made his breakthrough. It started with a couple of exquisite goals against Barcelona in the Spanish Supercup and then carried on with a remarkable double in a 2-2 draw with Valencia.
Real Madrid striker Lucas Vazquez uttered that Asensio will eventually win the Ballon D’or after his breathtaking start of the season.
“He is spectacular,” Vazquez said. “He’s at a very high level and still has to grow. We hope to enjoy him a lot. He is very humble and takes everything with ease. It’s soon to say about the Ballon d’Or, but I think so.”
Sky Sports pundit Terry Gibson also predicted that the midfielder will become one of the best players in the world. Manchester United offered 50 million pounds for him on Wednesday.
Asensio’s next game with Madrid will be a home La Liga match against Levante on Sept. 9th at 7:00 a.m. Meanwhile Dembele’s first ever game for Barca is against Espanyol on Sept. 9th at 2:45 p.m. at the Camp Nou.