Former Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta has praise Ousmane Dembele’s ‘genius’ and has tipped him to soon become an important player for the long-term at Camp Nou following a tough start to life with the Catalan giants.
The France international joined the reigning Liga champions for an initial €105 million [£90m/$119m] in August 2017.
Dembele’s spell had barely begun before he was struck down for over three months due to a torn hamstring tendon, which required surgery.
He missed another month of his maiden campaign when he re-injured the muscle upon his return.
But in the 2018-19 campaign – bar a fine for arriving two hours late to a training session – the 21-year-old has finally begun to repay Barca’s massive investment with 13 goals in 31 outings in all competitions.
Though an ankle injury did force Dembele to miss five matches, he has established himself as a key figure under Ernesto Valverde.
And Iniesta, who saw glimpses of the ex-Rennes forward during the last of his 16 seasons at Barcelona, expects him to become a vital individual in the future.
“He is a very special player who can decide a game on his own. Ousmane has so much witty playfulness, speed and determination,” the Spanish World Cup winner, who is now applying his trade with Vissel Kobe in Japan, said.
“He helps Barca with his genius. He’s also been scoring very regularly this season. It is a pity that his injury has thrown him back a little bit lately.
“In the coming years he can become a very, very important player for Barca.”
As Iniesta left to spend the twilight of his career in Asia, Barcelona moved quickly to sign a possible replacement in the form of Arthur from Gremio for €40 million (£35.5m/$47m).
The 22-year-old has made 10 La Liga starts this term and Iniesta feels his former club have the perfect player to succeed him.
He said: “Definitely [he can replace me]. He has a strong personality and he always knows what he has to do with the ball.
“But he is young and needs still some time to get used to the team and to fully establish his playing style.
“I think that Barca will have a lot of fun with him.”