A summer arrival from Stade Rennais FC, 19-year-old France winger Ousmane Dembele has adapted to Bundesliga life quickly, and is already a key player for Borussia Dortmund.
If Dembele only played the final half-hour of BVB's 2-1 loss to SV Darmstadt 98, it was not simply to rest the prodigal forward for the UEFA Champions League clash against SL Benfica the following Tuesday evening.
Watch: The making of Ousmane Dembele:
Indeed, coach Thomas Tuchel had little choice. Between the DFB Cup victory over Hertha Berlin on the Wednesday and the Darmstadt game, Dembele didn't train. Instead, he was absent for two days to attend his grandfather's funeral in Normandy.
‘Open and hungry to learn’
Having become a key player in the eyes of the Dortmund tactician, he was part of the matchday squad against the Lilies, and even entered the fray 15 minutes sooner than FIFA World Cup winner Andre Schürrle.
Alongside protagonists such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Julian Weigl and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Dembele has become one of Tuchel’s go-to guys - with his 20th birthday still some three months away.
"Over the last six months any appraisal can be made with no room for doubt,” enthused Tuchel, as per French daily L’Equipe. “Dembele is fully integrated. He is open and always hungry to learn more.”
Dembele’s statistics are impressive. He has six goals and ten assists from his 23 Bundesliga games to date, and has taken on and beaten more players than anybody else in the Dortmund squad. When BVB general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke beams that “I’ve never seen such a talented player before," it is not difficult to understand why.
There might be room for improvement in terms of ball-retention and decision-making yet, but Dembele is not impervious to self-criticism.
'I want to win the Champions League'
“I know I have played less well in some matches," he concedes. “I talked with the coach and it's normal to have that situation. I have to improve defensively. The most important thing is to play regularly, and at this level, I am very happy.”
Despite his relative lack of experience, Dembele is already accepting responsibility. His understanding with fellow Francophone Aubameyang is already bearing fruit, with Dembele having provided seven assists in all competitions for the Bundesliga’s top scorer.
Watch: Dembele starred with two assists as Dortmund held Hoffenheim on Matchday 15:
Dembele is not the first French winger to have lit up the Bundesliga. FC Bayern München star Franck Ribery boasts a French record seven Bundesliga titles, as well as a Champions League triumph from 2013.
Dortmund overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit against the Portuguese and are now safely through to thw quarter-finals, and the case remains that Dembele wants to emulate Ribery in more ways than one:
“I dream of winning the Champions League. I really want to win it, preferably with Dortmund.”