After selling Neymar for €222m to Paris Saint-Germain, the arrival of Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund was some welcome relief for Barcelona.
There were talks of the Blaugrana entering a ‘crisis’ following the departure of the Brazilian and a humiliating loss to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup didn’t exactly help their cause.
However, Ernesto Valverde’s side have been the polar opposite of a club in crisis this season, amassing a lead of 11 points at the summit of La Liga and are currently on an unbeaten run of 36 league games.
And they have done most of it without Dembele, who has spent large periods of his debut season absent with serious muscle injuries.
Some were starting to doubt the young Frenchman, but in Barca’s last three games, the former Rennes forward has shown exactly what he can bring to the club.
He was the man-of-the-match in the 2-0 win over Malaga, scored his first goal in the 3-0 victory against Chelsea and was brilliant against Athletic Bilbao on the weekend.
He may just be finding his feet and Barca legend Xavi Hernandez has some informative words for how he can pass his ‘final exam’.
He said: “He will have to learn to think faster, in a few thousandths of a second. This is where we will see if he has the mentality. He must say to himself: ‘l am a Barca player.’ You have to be mentally strong, to have conviction.”
Xavi’s convinced you need the right mentality to survive at the club, adding: “He will need some time. Barca is like a final exam for a footballer. It is like Dembele is passing a Master’s degree right now because not everyone can play for this club.
“Why? Because you have to know things three times more than elsewhere. Barca play on barely 30 metres of the pitch.
“Dembele has a lot of talent, he is very fast, but here, he is not going to have the space he had at Dortmund or Rennes. He had more space, so more time there.”
He then stated that talent – something Dembele possesses in abundance – is not enough to succeed in Catalonia.
“There are average players who spent 15 years at Barca, because they had character. And there are some excellent players who did not do anything because they couldn’t handle pressure.
“In training, when you saw them, you would say to yourself: ‘They will break everything. They’re going to be legends.’ But no. As soon as they entered the pitch, their legs started shaking, they did not want the ball anymore. And you would wonder: ‘Holy f–k, what’s happening to them?'”