When he was about to frown, Didier Deschamps laughed. Tired of questions about Karin Benzema – absent from the French team since 2015, when the Valbuena case– In Kazakhstan, last Sunday, he was questioned again about the Madrid forward. The technician did not even stop speaking to the Kazakh journalist. “No …” Deschamps started. Even here? I’m sure a French journalist told you to ask me that question, ”he resolved, laughing. he got up and go away. Nothing elusive, the coach of the French team was when they asked him about Ousmane Dembélé, 23, the great attraction of the French team on the FIFA day.
Relegated in the 2018 World Cup, Dembélé had also lost prominence in recent years. In Russia, the winger started in the starting eleven to finish watching the games from the bench (after the group stage, he only played two minutes). After winning the World Cup, Deschamps did not want to forget Dembélé even though he was not convinced by his performance. However, the repeated injuries of the azulgrana did the rest. Before this national team stoppage, Dembélé’s last call-up dated from November 2018: 25 minutes against Germany in the Nations League and a substitute in the friendly against Uruguay.
A total of 19 matches outside of France. But something has happened with Dembélé this season. Scared because he saw how his time at Barcelona was consuming, only protagonist when he appeared in the infirmary (10 injuries, 534 days off, since he signed for Barça in 2017), the Frenchman changed course. A physical trainer, Salah Ghaidi, a former 400 and 800 meter athlete; a physiotherapist, Jean-Baptiste Duault, eight years in the French athletics team; and a chef, Antonhy Audebaud, are the new ones in charge of taking care of Dembélé’s physique and diet. “We have a formula 1 in hand,” explained Ghaidi to L’Équipe. “The objective is not to do it faster, but to prevent the risk of injury as much as possible, knowing that zero risk does not exist,” Duault completed.
The main difference, in any case, is in Dembélé’s head. “Honestly, since 2017 I was very weak,” confessed the former Borussia Dortmund player. “I feel good about myself, after fighting all these physical problems for three years. They are life experiences that must be taken with a smile. Now physically I have changed and I feel better prepared for the games. This year is going better, I have improved a lot in Barcelona, with the physical trainers, the way of training, the way of preparing for the games. Everything has changed ”, completed Dembélé. At Barça they celebrate their new attitude. “We have stopped talking about whether he fell asleep, whether he missed training or what his lifestyle was like. He has potential, now he has to show it ”, they say in the Barça sports department.
With Koeman he has scored nine goals and has distributed five assists in the 35 games he has played. “I can’t speak much about what has happened before, but looking at Ousmane this season, there are two things I can say: physically he has improved a lot and has a lot of quality. It is very good. He has one against one, has a lot of depth and plays on two legs. I love it ”, emphasizes the Dutchman. In Barcelona they are already in talks with their representative to agree on a new link. His contract expires in June 2022.
His presence at Barcelona has been the bridge to return to the French team and fight for a place in the next European Championship. In eleven, however, it is more complicated. It is difficult to move Mbappé, Giroud and Griezmann, who are joined by Coman. Dembélé played 26 minutes in the draw against Ukraine and scored in the victory against Kazakhstan. This Wednesday, France faces Bosnia-Herzegovina. Deschamps, for now, pull on caution. “I could do more,” said the coach. And traded a slap on the wrist for a compliment. “You are on the right track. He is capable of repeating his efforts and differentiating himself and, in addition, he was rewarded with the goal, “said the coach. It doesn’t bother him to talk about Dembélé to Deschamps. In fact, it seems that he prefers to talk about anything before being asked about Benzema.