So Moussa Dembele; what exactly did we get for our money?
A monumental profit for one thing. Goals against Sevco and a couple of peaches in games where it mattered. For £800,000 or thereabouts, that’s some bit of business. Some will laud Lawwell and the board for that. It was the scouts who found him and the manager who nurtured him who deserve all the credit for it.
Everyone could see his quality.
The shabbiest negotiator in the world could have spun gold from this guy’s departure.
That they somehow contrived to make such a pig’s ear of it is quite incredible.
For all that, I am glad to see the back of him, which is a line I never would have believed I’d write just three days ago. I am furious that we didn’t have the foresight to have a replacement lined up – it makes you wonder what our scouts do for their money – but when I heard a rumour last night that he might return to the club on a six-month loan I was frankly appalled.
I could not conceive of any scenario where I wanted to see him play again in the Hoops after his disgraceful – and dishonest – attacks on our manager and club.
Now, as everyone knows I didn’t want to see Boyata in the jersey either and I still don’t, but Brendan made a decision on that which makes it clear that he is a man who can set aside his own angst and forgive and forget and move on for the good of all at the club.
It’s a measure of how far Dembele pushed his luck yesterday that Brendan so readily, quickly, dismissed him from training in the name of squad harmony and then took the decision to ship him out before the window shut. It is the one sign of genuine leadership, of someone grabbing a situation by the throat, that we’ve seen from Celtic in weeks.
Imagine Dembele believing he could get away with that; the public humiliation of being told to go and sit inside like a badly behaved kid is something a more mature player would have taken to heart and learned a lesson from. You don’t get the impression that he has.
I was pleased he was punted. I am aghast that he was not replaced.
The press conference later in the day, where Brendan lashed Dembele by reminding him that the club pays his wages and that he was expected to damned well work for them, was a moment of ruthlessness that gave us a glimpse of the man players see every day.
Those who were worried that we were listless, heading for the rocks, needn’t have. The captain of the ship is on deck, and his hands are firmly on the wheel. He may not have gotten his players, but those who work under him know who the boss is.
Dembele sat at his Lyon unveiling today and boasted about how he orchestrated his exit. It was shameful preening from somebody with no shame, a side to him we didn’t really see until late in the day but which he hinted at a couple of times in the last year with cryptic, teasing tweets which spoke of a guy who was in love with himself a little too much.
His press conference at his new club showed none of the class we associated with his time on the park and if I were watching a new signing at our club behave like that at his unveiling I would think we’d lost our minds for bringing him in. If he had cost our club £20 million, I’d be living in dread of the trouble he might cause once he decides he’s outgrown us and starts hankering for even more money. I wonder if that disquiet is already being felt.
It was a graceless, tasteless, self-indulgent display, boasting of his deplorable behaviour as if it was a virtue. And this is the Dembele I am going to remember, the one who abandoned ship at the most inconvenient time and then had the gall to slag us off as if we had threatened to hold him prisoner instead of offering to improve his salary if he stayed another year.
I will remember goals against Sevco, but also long spells where he sat in the stands, depriving us of his talents at several crucial points; someone said to me earlier that of our matches last season he failed to start in 33 of them … he didn’t give us two years as much as he gave us one and a bit.
For all that, when he played he really looked a talent.
But he couldn’t wait to get out of Celtic Park. He prattled on about loyalty whilst trying to lever himself out of a four-year deal at the halfway point. The manager said no specific promises were made on that score, and I believe him over the guy who “liked” that nonsensical and wholly fictitious article about Brighton and Wigan two nights ago.
I wonder if he even knows, or cares, about little things like the truth. Perhaps he just thinks all football fans are gullible fools.
Certainly, his attempt to score points with the fans by pretending to give a damn went down like a lead balloon. It was a shabby and naked attempt to create a wedge between the supporters and the manager and anyone could have told him how that would end.
Dembele is gone now, and as I have no interest in the career progress of John McGinn or Stuart Armstrong or any of the other players who have left or chosen not to sign over this window and in years gone by, I will think of him no more until his face next appears on my newsfeed somewhere. Other sites might think fans care about the size of his pay-packet, others still will seemingly delight in telling us about every good game he has … rest assured if you, like me, are sick of him already you’ll probably never read his name on this site again.
He leaves behind a legacy of goals against Sevco, important games where his contribution was invaluable and others where you wondered where the footballer had gone. His spells out with injury were way too many, and way too long. Had we paid for him what we received there would be no question of us having got value for money.
But as it just so happens, we made a bundle and still got the benefits of his time here. It ends in disgrace for him, but our club moves on regardless. We are, and have always been, bigger than any one player and that would have been true even if Dembele had not contrived to show the world what a small man he actually is.