Ousmane Dembele revisited: Should Bayern Munich sign the Barcelona winger? Part II


Three years ago, Bayern Munich were linked with the signing of Ousmane Dembele from Barcelona, ​​a transfer that never materialized. However, the ties were strong enough to warrant a deep dive into the viability of signing Dembele. Our conclusion at the time? Serge Gnabry was the best player.

Now, in 2022, we find ourselves in the same place. The Frenchman has once again been linked with a move to Munich, this time as a free agent. Does signing make more sense now? Or should Bayern stay away and focus on other targets? Let’s take a look at the 2019 arguments and see if they hold up.

Argument #1: Injuries

Back in 2019, we had this to say about Ousmane Dembele’s injury record:

Season 17/18: Thigh injury. 106 days (20 matches) missed, from September 2017 to January 2018.

Season 17/18: Torn muscle bundle. 26 days (7 games) missed, from January 2018 to February 2018.

Season 18/19: Ankle injury. 18 days (5 games) missed from January 2019 to February 2019.

Season 18/19: Torn muscle bundle. 26 days (4 games) missed from March 2019 to April 2019.

Season 18/19: Thigh injury. 42 days (4 games) missed from May 2019 to June 2019.

Despite Barcelona’s medical magic, Dembélé has really struggled with injuries at Camp Nou, with muscle injuries being the most prevalent. It is very serious, because these types of injuries can plague a player throughout their career, sidelining them again and again.

Since then, his injury problems have not improved. Here are his absences from 19/20:

  • 19/20: Thigh injury. 34 days (5 games) missed from August 19 to September 22, 2019.
  • 19/20: Muscular problems. 3 days (1 game) missed from September 27 to September 30, 2019.
  • 19/20: Torn muscle bundle. 66 days (13 games) missed from November 28, 2019. to February 2, 2020.
  • 19/20: Thigh injury. 191 days (19 games) missed from February 4 to August 13, 2020.
  • 20/21: Thigh injury. 22 days (5 games) missed from December 6 to December 28, 2020.
  • 20/21: Unknown injury. 2 days (1 game) missed from April 21 to April 23, 2021.
  • 21/22: Knee injury. 134 days (14 games) missed from June 20 to November 1, 2021.
  • 21/22: Thigh injury. 18 days (2 games) missed from November 4 to November 22, 2021.
  • 21/22: Coronavirus. 7 days (2 games) missed from December 29, 2021 to January 5, 2022.

Clearly, our initial 2019 assessment was spot on. Since writing this article, Dembele has missed 477 days and 62 games due to injury or illness. Frankly, that’s an absurd number and should give Bayern Munich pause. Only the 2021/22 season has seen him stay relatively healthy through an entire campaign, but it’s clear his hamstring issues aren’t completely a thing of the past.

Dembele has the youth on his side, and there’s reason to believe FC Barcelona have handled their injury problems badly in the past. He’s not the only Barca youngster to have recurring injury problems, and the Frenchman’s problems have mostly resolved themselves after Xavi Hernandez came on the scene and completely revamped the Catalans’ medical team.

Dembele’s injury record might not be the red flag it once was but it’s still a huge risk to take. If the €18m-per-year salary offer is true, then Bayern Munich should offer that money to a player who can actually stay fit.

Argument #2: The Serge Gnabry factor

Back in 2019, we argued that Bayern didn’t need Dembele because Serge Gnabry was clearly the better player, and the stats seemed to back that up. The argument proved prescient, as Gnabry had one of his best seasons the following campaign, becoming Bayern’s second top scorer in a treble season.

Of course, we are now in 2022 and the situation is not so clear. Despite finishing it strong, Serge Gnabry had a disappointing year by his standards, which made Bayern reluctant to offer him a new contract.

Here is a statistical comparison between Serge Gnabry and Ousmane Dembele, kindly provided by the folks at FC Discordelona:

In case the numbers bore you or the radar scares you, here’s the gist:

  • Gnabry beats Dembele in goal metrics like non-penalty goals and xG without penalty. Given that their shot numbers are similar, it’s obvious that Gnabs is the better finisher (by some margin).
  • Dembele only is ahead of Gnabry in the creativity department. Their passes in the box are identical, but the Frenchman has a higher xA, more shot creation actions, more successful dribbles, more progressions, more carries in the final third and more carries in the box.

Honestly, based on these numbers, it’s hard to argue for one player over another. Circumstances can play into it – Barcelona spent part of the season coached by Ronald Koeman, whose tactics were below average at best, and Dembele saw a resurgence under Xavi. Gnabry hasn’t had to deal with that baggage, although this season hasn’t been his best.

So IF Gnabry decides not to renew, Dembele looks like a decent option. But is it the only option on the market? And is it worth 18 million euros per year? Difficult questions to answer, but I’m leaning towards the “no”.

Argument n°3: the price asked by Barça

This has become a non-factor as Dembele is now a free agent. Let’s move on.

Argument #4: Dembele’s attitude issues

Back in 2019, Ousmane Dembele was infamous for his poor work ethic. Since then, the Frenchman has mostly cleaned up his act. According to reports, he’s no longer late for training and Xavi seems to like him as a player. Of course, anyone can pretend to be a professional and work for a contract year, and Dembele knew he was on display this season. Will he go back to his old ways after joining Bayern? Who can say?

Also, one thing that cannot be ignored is the racism controversy. The incident took place in the summer of 2019 but only gained traction in 2021 after a video emerged of Dembele and Griezmann mocking Asian hotel staff during their tour at the Japan (via ESPN). Both players apologized for the incident, but it’s not something that can be forgotten.

Is this the kind of player Bayern Munich should sign? On the one hand, his actions go against the values ​​of the club. On the other hand, he was 22 at the time and could have cleaned up his act. It’s hard to say. But what if other similar videos exist, just waiting to be revealed? It’s a controversy that Bayern Munich don’t need to deal with.

Argument #5: Better options?

In 2019, compared to Ousmane Dembele, Bayern Munich had a lot more options in the market to pursue. Chief among them was Leroy Sane, whom the Bavarians eventually landed – albeit a year later and at a steep discount.

This season, Bayern have been linked with the likes of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku. However, both players seem unrealistic in the current scenario. Considering the club’s financial situation and Dembele’s contract expiring, the Frenchman could actually be an enticing option this summer. However, considering all the issues listed above – injury issues, quality issue and controversy – it’s hard to say anything has changed in the past three years.

For now, Ousmane Dembele remains a risky option for Bayern Munich. He has a lot of advantages – as a quality dribbler with pace he is suited to the style of play of the Bundesliga and Bayern. However, it seems like the negatives still make this transfer a tough pill to swallow. Maybe if that salary was 20-30% lower, this decision would make sense.


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