Moussa Dembele could’ve been in the Champions League final last year with Tottenham but instead joined Celtic… now Lyon’s super-sub is the Ligue 1 side’s key to toppling Bayern Munich
- Lyon face the daunting task of Bayern Munich in the Champions League last four
- Moussa Demebele’s double against Manchester City earned them the chance
- The Frenchman had just 15 minutes on the pitch but was clinical in attack
- The football obsessive will be crucial as Lyon try to earn an unlikely final spot
As Bayern Munich demolished Barcelona 8-2 in last week’s remarkable Champions League quarter-final, one viewer had eyes only for the Germans’ No 9.
Watching Robert Lewandowski maul the Barcelona back four, Lyon’s Moussa Dembele picked up his phone and began texting friends from his room in the Cascais Miragem hotel, to the west of Lisbon.
‘Wow, look at Lewandowski — unbelievable,’ he wrote excitedly.
Moussa Dembele is set to be a key player in Lyon’s attempt to fell the in-form Bayern Munich
The Frenchman helped Lyon to their Champions League semi-final spot with a double
Dembele admires Robert Lewandowski but hopes to stop fellow forward reaching the final
Twenty-four hours later, Dembele would surpass Lewandowski by scoring a double against Manchester City to the Pole’s single goal against Barca.
On Wednesday night, Dembele hopes to stop his fellow centre-forward reaching the second Champions League final of his career.
The 24-year-old could’ve been there last year with Tottenham. In January 2016, Dembele was poised to join Spurs from Fulham for £6million and had met chairman Daniel Levy to negotiate after a fee was settled.
He had agreed personal terms and completed a medical, only for the deal to fall apart when Fulham insisted the player complete the rest of the season on loan with them.
Football nut Dembele has been gearing up for the semi-final with his team-mates in training
That summer, Dembele joined Celtic when his contract ended and after scoring 51 goals in 94 games during two years working with Brendan Rodgers, he moved to Lyon for nearly £20m.
Although Dembele did not start against City, he needed only 15 minutes to show what he is about.
After replacing Memphis Depay, his two decisive strikes proved why Juninho Pernambucano, Lyon’s sporting director and former midfielder, believes Dembele is among the best five natural goalscorers on the planet — and a constant threat from the bench.
Last season, his late goals as a substitute rescued a point at Lille, delivered victory at Bordeaux, and sealed a 3-0 win at Marseille.
Dembele could have been in Spurs’ 2018-19 Champions League final but instead joined Celtic
Born in Pontoise in the north western suburbs of Paris, Dembele is a football nut who spends hours watching clips of forwards on YouTube.
During his days at Fulham, where he arrived as a 16-year-old in 2012 after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, Dembele would sit in his apartment scanning footage of Gabriel Batistuta and Marco van Basten, trying to copy their movements in Under 18 matches at Fulham’s Motspur Park training ground.
As he has made his way in the game, he has turned to contemporary No 9s, with Luis Suarez of Barcelona and Lewandowski among his favourites.
Dembele’s work in Lisbon last Saturday will have alerted several clubs across Europe
All four would have appreciated Dembele’s ice-cool finish for his second against City — when Ederson spilled midfielder Houssem Aouar’s shot, it would have been easy for Dembele to hammer the rebound.
Instead, he flicked it with his weaker left foot beyond Ederson and put Lyon in the last four.
The question now is what happens next to this team’s most talented players.
Midfielder Aouar is thought to be keen to leave, Memphis Depay has only one year left on his contract and Dembele’s work in Lisbon last Saturday will have alerted clubs.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas would be loath to allow more than one of them to depart. Yet if they do so as Champions League winners, that would make the pill a little easier to swallow.
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