Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele has been one of the revelations of 2016/17, torturing Bundesliga defences with his pace and trickery and chalking up 21 assists and nine goals in all competitions. The 20-year-old France international is now hoping to help BVB round out the season in style with victory in Saturday's DFB Cup final against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Dortmund knew they had landed a special talent when they secured the services of 18-year-old Dembele in May 2016, but even the club's most die-hard supporters could not have predicted the stunning impact the young Frenchman would have in his first full season in Germany.
"I'm very happy with how the season has gone," Dembele told kicker. "Winning the DFB Cup as well would be a huge achievement."
Watch: Dembele's fascinating journey from Evreux to the Bundesliga:
Twenty-one assists, including ten for chief partner-in-crime Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who will no doubt thank the stars for Dembele's arrival every time he catches a glimpse of that shiny top scorer's cannon on the mantelpiece.
Nine goals, including the all-important winner against Bayern Munich in the DFB Cup semi-finals, and what a winner it was too – Dembele bamboozling David Alaba with the cut inside and sweeping a glorious left-footed strike in off the underside of the bar, leaving Sven Ulreich grasping at thin air. A goal worthy of securing BVB a fourth trip to the Olympiastadion in as many seasons.
"It was one of the most spectacular goals – if not the most spectacular – of my career so far," Dembele admitted. "My mother congratulated me afterwards. She said, 'You did really well. But now you have to win the final against Frankfurt, or it was all for nothing.'"
Berlin has been a familiar but unhappy hunting ground for Dortmund in recent years. The Black-and-Yellows have lost successive DFB Cup finals to Bayern (2014), Wolfsburg (2015) and Bayern (2016), but Dembele is convinced that good things come to those who wait.
"Three straight final defeats, plus the Champions League loss to Bayern in 2013, that's quite enough! Losing a final is always extremely painful for a professional footballer, but it can make victory taste even sweeter. I'm really looking forward to the final."
Saturday's showpiece will pit Dortmund against Frankfurt, and so far this term the two sides are all square. The Eagles claimed an impressive 2-1 home win on Matchday 12, but Dortmund got their revenge with a 3-1 success at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK on Matchday 29.
"Frankfurt are a very good team, tough to play against," Dembele acknowledged. "But we will prepare ourselves as well as we possibly can."
Dembele came on as a second-half substitute in both of those Bundesliga games, but rejected the notion that coach Thomas Tuchel had been protecting him from Frankfurt's rather robust style of play.
"It doesn't bother me if my opponents are physical, if they foul me or try to hold me back," he insisted. "I always look to play my game, even when the other team goes in hard."
The French prodigy also touched on the shocking bomb attack targeting Dortmund's team bus ahead of the UEFA Champions League game against Monaco on April 11. While he admitted that it was a terrible ordeal, he said that focusing on football had helped the players "deal with the trauma".
"We stuck together and made a point of talking to each other about it. The wins against Frankfurt, Gladbach, Bayern and Bremen certainly gave us a big confidence boost. And winning the final on Saturday would be the perfect reward for us and for the fans, who have been fantastic and supported us more than ever during this difficult period."
Dortmund's success on Saturday could once hinge on the dynamic duo of Dembele and Aubameyang, who have dovetailed spectacularly in their first season together. The Frenchman, who revealed that he is "just as happy" setting up goals as he is scoring them, praised the Gabon captain's predatory instincts.
"We understand each other perfectly, and sometimes I know where he'll be without looking. In the semi-final in Munich, for example, I could sense that he was going to be at the far post for the equaliser, and so it proved. Auba definitely has a sixth sense for those situations."
Though he has only just turned 20, Dembele has made more appearances than any other Dortmund player this season, with a total of 47 in all competitions. While he confessed that his legs are feeling a little heavy, he now has every intention of crowning his maiden campaign with a first major trophy.
"I've played a lot of games and I'm definitely starting to notice the fatigue creeping in. But I want to give everything I've got in Berlin. Winning a title in my first season would show that I've settled in and that our hard work has paid off. It would be great for the team and the fans to see that we're heading in the right direction after a difficult season."
And should Saturday's final go to penalties, will Dembele be the first man to stride up to the spot and find the back of the net, just as he did in the shoot-out victories over Union Berlin and Hertha Berlin earlier in the competition?
"Definitely, if the coach is OK with it! Nerves, stress – I don't really think about those things."
Youthful insouciance with the talent to back it up – Dembele could be just what the doctor ordered as Dortmund look to finally break their Berlin hoodoo.