Barcelona ace Dembele sparks rumours after being spotted at UK match
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Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele got minds racing on Wednesday evening when he unexpectedly popped up in the stands at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. The French World Cup winner passed up several more glamorous opportunities on a packed night of football, leaving Black Cats supporters to speculatively hope for the best.
Dembele remains one of the most expensive players in history following his move from Borussia Dortmund to Barca six years ago, in a deal worth a reported £136million. Injuries stifled his early progress in Catalonia but he is now a key player under Xavi as his side push for the La Liga title.
The pacey 25-year-old has been an assist machine in recent seasons and he has continued to perform at a high level this term, with 10 goal contributions in 18 league outings. A hamstring injury has kept him out since late January, however, and Barca stars had time off this week after being knocked out of the Europa League by Manchester United last month.
It still came as a surprise when Dembele was spotted in the stands at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday to witness Sunderland’s home defeat against promotion-chasers Sheffield United.
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The jet-heeled forward was snapped alongside Sunderland owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, leaving fans to theorise what may have been behind his visit. With several other high-profile games played on Wednesday, Dembele snubbed Brighton’s win over Crystal Palace, Southampton’s defeat to Brentford and even Real Madrid’s Champions League win over Liverpool.
Some supporters, perhaps with a hint of sarcasm, held out hope that he was trying to manufacture a move to the north-east. “Lol. He’s looking for an offer,” wrote @richmondkush on Twitter, while @JamesCarr1996 added: “Ousmane Dembele to Sunderland! What a signing this will be!”
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Sheffield United fans also got in on the act, with @HillierWill writing: “Came to see United.” It was later clarified that Dembele is a long-time friend of Louis-Dreyfus and the pair were pictured in Miami five years ago.
He may not have been too happy, therefore, when Sunderland fell to their fourth defeat in five games, leaving them 12th in the Championship with hopes of reaching the play-offs fading rapidly. The Blades, meanwhile, enjoy a six-point buffer inside the automatic promotion spots as they look set to join Burnley in ascending to the Premier League.
“We were better in the second half, and yet their quality showed in the first half,” said Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray after the final whistle. “And rightly so because they were playing in the Premier League while we were in League One.
“We’re trying to close that gap but it does take a few transfer windows to do that. It’s a tough division and we’ll have nights like that where it doesn’t quite go our way. But as I keep saying, there’s not an expectation that we are going to make the top six or get promoted this season – we’ve just got promoted from League One.”
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