Ousmane Dembele has the chance to add a second successive World Cup winner's medal to his collection this weekend. It's a feat made possible by the France winger's career-shaping stint at Borussia Dortmund...
When Henrikh Mkhitaryan departed for Manchester United in the summer of 2016, Dortmund were left with some pretty big boots to fill. The Armenian had produced 41 goals and 49 appearances across 140 appearances for BVB, helping the club to couple of Bundesliga and DFB Cup runners-up finishes, and two Supercup wins.
Dortmund reinvested some of the Mkhitaryan pot by bringing in proven Bundesliga names such as Mario Götze, Andre Schürrle and Sebastian Rode. The five-time Bundesliga winners also snapped up a handful of lesser-known players, including UEFA Euro 2016 winner Raphael Guerreiro, Barcelona-reared Marc Bartra, Turkish prospect Emre Mor and 18-year-old Dembele.
Dembele - Ligue 1's Young Player of the Year for 2016 - had been linked with a host of top European clubs, and said himself he rejected interest from then English Premier League champions Leicester City. From Dortmund's perspective, it would prove to be one of the shrewdest transfers in history.
With six goals and 12 assists in 32 outings, Dembele was involved in a Dortmund goal every 113 minutes he was on the field in the Bundesliga. It took him only three minutes longer than that to land his first provision in German football, while his maiden Bundesliga goal arrived as early as Matchday 4, against Wolfsburg. He also turned in five goal-and-assist performances in all competitions.
Scenes of Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wheeling away in celebration started to multiply as the Dortmund pair combined time and again, the latter benefiting substantially from his incendiary decoy to win the 2016/17 top scorer's prize ahead of Robert Lewandowski. BVB finished the season in third in the Bundesliga and exited the UEFA Champions League at the quarter-final stage, but won the DFB Cup.
Dembele marked the occasion with the opening goal against Eintracht Frankfurt - his 10th and final strike in Dortmund colours. He donned the famous black and yellow one last time in the 2017 Supercup defeat to Bayern Munich, before Barcelona made their move. For a short while, the deal ranked as the second most expensive transfer of all time.
"Dembele's talent was innate. Very, very unusual. We had a lot of top players on the team, but Ousmane was one of the craziest talents I saw," Thomas Tuchel - who handed Dembele his Bundesliga debut - recalled in an interview with Goal. "He's an incredible player, really talented. It was only a year, but I could have watched his amazing skills all day."
A one-season wonder of a different kind, Dembele has gone on to play 170 times for Barcelona, registering 37 goals and 41 assists. He made four appearances for France during their triumphant 2018 World Cup campaign - having debuted for his country under Didier Deschamps a couple of months into his Dortmund stay - and has started five of six games en route to the 2022 final.
To date, 20 players have won the World Cup twice. Dembele is one game from joining that select list. And at 25, the former BVB wing wizard could conceivably conjure up another world gold before his race as a professional footballer is run.
A France great in the making, don't let it be forgotten Dembele was forged the Dortmund way and given the platform to flourish into the world star he is today in the Bundesliga.
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