Today begins the first of several Hoddles with Mousa Dembele at the top. Following a successful petition, a serious Dembele will be the lead image every day until the window ends. Let’s keep the theme going.
Ramble of the Day
It’s the first of its kind under my leadership, but I’m going to dedicate today’s ramble to Mousa Dembele. I’ll probably do this again at my own disclosure, but you obviously have the power of petition when it comes to recently departed Tottenham players.
I was going to handpick a couple of moments, but after listening to a sad song, I feel more like describing Mousa Dembele’s essence. (If you’d like to pick out a Dembele moment of your own, please feel free.) Dembele is an experience, and not in the way you call Erik Lamela an experience, though the two do share certain characteristics. Like Lamela, he was prone to moments of pure shithousery — he did pick up that six match suspension after the Battle of the Bridge, after all.
For the most part, though, the Mousa Dembele experience is just enjoying a man who is exceptionally gifted in midfield, when healthy. Hardly anyone, and maybe no one, could advance a ball the way Dembele could. There’s a smoothness to the whole thing; it’s pretty glorious and ultimately spectacular.
There was no central midfielder in top level football (big five European leagues) who could advance the ball with his feet like Mousa Dembele. Not one. pic.twitter.com/spICCJP8LG— Michael "Chopsy Mug" Caley (@MC_of_A) January 8, 2019
There’s something classic about Dembele, because he somewhat surprisingly ended up being a world class player Tottenham fans had hoped one day would be theirs to enjoy. Commonly accepted smart football person Mauricio Pochettino has hailed the man as one of the five genius players he’s met, which is undeniable if you take a good look at Dembele on the pitch. Certainly under-appreciated on a global scale, but hardly ever by those who actually got to work with him. Frequently voted the most talented by his Spurs teammates, a group that is pretty well known for their own talent, at his best he is the ultimate pleasure to have on the pitch.
Dembele, though, wasn’t just classy. Like I mentioned, he had a rough streak in him — in addition to the famous eye-scratching at Stamford Bridge, I’ll never forget the time he came on towards the end of Tottenham’s 3-1 victory over Real Madrid seemingly with the mission to beat Sergio Ramos at his own game. Off the pitch, he was also a similar mix. The man loves a good musical, Jersey Boys apparently being a favorite. He also seems to be really into bitcoin, which simultaneously makes me laugh and worried that he’ll lose all the money he’s going to earn in China.
You will be missed in the Premier League, Mousa Dembele, but at least you’re not retiring (or dying). Enjoy China, and I hope China enjoys you. Who knows? Maybe now that ESPN+ has Chinese Super League, I’ll tune in just to see you putting on another masterclass soon.
tl;dr: I’m going to miss you, Mousa Dembele.
Links of the Day
Australia has fired its women’s national team coach Alen Stajcic with less than five months to go until the World Cup.
Maurizio Sarri said his players are “extremely difficult to motivate” after Chelsea’s 2-0 loss to Arsenal.
Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele sprained his ankle in the team’s 3-1 victory over Leganes and will undergo tests today.
Transfer roundup: Cardiff have signed forward Emiliano Sala from Nantes and Oumar Niasse on loan from Everton
Today’s longer read: Tariq Panja on Chinese players complying with their nation’s tattoo ban at the Asian Cup for The New York Times