Moussa Dembélé was born and grew up in Pontoise, just to the north of Paris, and as a schoolboy footballer he attracted the attention of scouts from Paris-Saint Germain, who brought him into their youth system at the age of eight.
Dembélé progressed steadily through the junior ranks at PSG until the club’s 2011 purchase by Qatar Sports Investments transformed them overnight into a financial behemoth with the power to buy their way to success. Seeing his path to the first team potentially blocked by galactico arrivals, he moved to Fulham a year later, aged just sixteen.
He initially continued his development in the Fulham youth teams and made his debut as a substitute in November 2013 aged seventeen. A spattering of appearances followed over the course of the next eighteen months before his breakthrough season in 2016-16 saw him become a regular and plunder 15 goals in the Championship.
In June 2016 he moved north of the border to Celtic, where he quickly established himself as a key part of their front line. Over the course of the following two seasons he scored 51 goals for the hoops in all competitions, won the treble twice, made the Premiership Team of the Year and got his first taste of Champions League action.
By now he was also scoring regularly for the French Under-21 team and was attracting attention across Europe. A couple of days after selling Mariano Diaz to Real Madrid in August 2018, Lyon moved to sign Dembélé as a direct replacement for their departing striker for a fee reportedly rising to €22 million.
Dembélé’s first season in the Rhône department brought a return of fifteen league goals, plus a further five in cup competitions as he adapted to the step up in level. He had already beaten those goal tallies in the 2019-20 season, his second at the club, when the Covid-19 pandemic brought an abrupt end to proceedings.
Aged 24 at the time of writing, Dembélé is still developing as a striker and there’s plenty of room for improvement to his all-round game. His finishing is a strong point, although he often needs a sighter to find his range in a match, rarely seeming to find the net with his first chance of a game.
He has at times been deployed as a loan front man by Lyon and I don’t feel that the role suits him well. He’s not great at holding the ball up until team mates arrive, and plays much better when there’s an additional forward or two in close support. He also needs to improve his interplay with his colleagues and get a few more assists.
However, his goal return is undeniably good and if it continues to improve on the current trajectory as he approaches his peak years then he’ll soon outgrow Lyon and find himself on the shopping list of Europe’s elite clubs with a hefty price tag. Lyon may even have signed Karl Toko Ekambi on a permanent deal in summer 2020 as a potential replacement for Dembélé with a view to cashing in on him sooner rather than later.