By 90Min
January 18, 2019

The love affair is over. Mousa Sidi Yaya Dembélé has, as is becoming the trend, left the grand old English stage and agreed a move to the Chinese Super League. The move, though heartbreaking for Tottenham fans, can hardly come as a surprise. They knew the end was nigh. 

Dembele only appeared 13 times in a Spurs shirt this season, and lasted the full 90 minutes in just three games. However, unlike when the big Belgian is on the ball, his timing is somewhat awry on this occasion.

He has jumped ship right in the middle of Spurs' midfield crisis, with Moussa Sissoko, Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama all out through injury. In an area where the team usually excel, they have recently been found wanting. 

In times like these, Spurs fans have become accustomed to rolling over and reaching out for their comfort blanket in Mousa Dembele, who would reassure them that everything is going to be alright, as he drifts carelessly past another Premier League midfield.

Back at the very start, the Tottenham faithful were unsure what exactly their £15m was getting them in Dembele; five Premier League goals in two years at Fulham doesn't scream 'midfield maestro'. 

Lo and behold, the then-25-year-old notched his first Tottenham goal on his debut against Norwich, after which the goals became harder to come by. All in all, Dembele scored ten goals and assisted only 12 more in his 249 appearances for the club, but it is not his sparse goal scoring tally that Spurs will miss.

Perhaps not since David Ginola was dancing his way around the White Hart Lane pitch have Tottenham employed a player with such elegance on the football. Autonomous in the way he played the game, Dembele often found himself in the most precarious spots, but he always seemed to find the easiest route out, which tended to involve him shifting the ball on to his left foot, with the opposition still unable to anticipate his actions. 

But it wasn't just his ability to beat a man that got fans on the edge of their seats. His defensive instincts and awareness bailed his side out of trouble countless times, with the Belgian then proceeding to shrug off another player and kick-start a Spurs attack.

What really counts are the opinions of those who had to try and stop him. Some of the biggest names in world football have come forth to offer their opinions on the big Belgian, and their declarations are hardly surprising.

Chris Brunskill Ltd/GettyImages

When speaking to Man City's official websiteKevin De Bruyne stated: “For me, in a five-a-side he’s the best player in the world. He’s so strong on the ball, you can never take the ball off him. Offensively and defensively, (he’s) one of the best.”


In an interview for Spurs' official website, Dembele's team mate and compatriot Jan Vertonghen could not speak highly enough of the midfielder: “I don’t think people know how good Mousa is. You can ask every single player in the team and I don’t think you can describe how good Mousa is.


"He’s a special player and I can’t think of anyone else who is a bit like him. For me, he’s up there with the best two or three midfielders in the league."

IAN KINGTON/GettyImages

Finally, in 2016, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino spoke of how much Dembele was missed after his side drew 1-1 to Liverpool in the Belgian's absence. 


"He is a player who I have told you many times is, for me, one of the geniuses that I have met in football," Pochettino said, via Football London“Without Mousa Dembele, we do not exist. Tottenham does not exist."


The Argentinian tactician went on to reassure the fans that he was joking, but maybe there was some element of truth in his witticism. For the meantime, Tottenham's midfield arguably has seized to exist, with Pochettino now having to dig a little deeper in the squad to find temporary replacements for the likes of Dembele. 

But how do you replace a player like Dembele? Very few in world football can carry the ball with such refinement and grace and then turn around and bully the opposition off of the ball at the other end. Think back upon the times when his supreme performances have given Spurs hope, and it is hard to look any further than last year's game in Turin, when Dembele made a world-class Juventus midfield look like school boys, enjoying 10.2% of the game's possession.

However Pochettino decides to proceed in terms of replacing the Belgian, there are very few doubts that the Premier League and Tottenham have lost one of the greatest players to breach these shores in recent memory, and whoever succeeds him in their midfield will have very large boots, and a large shirt, to fill.

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