Forget about the price tag. Moussa Dembele’s notional transfer value may have been a source of animated debate throughout his prolific first season in Scottish football but the man himself could hardly be less exercised by the issue.
The Celtic striker has regularly been quoted in the £30-£40 million bracket as a host of leading English Premier League clubs monitor his progress, a figure that former Rangers manager Ally McCoist this week dismissed as unrealistic. Dembele simply shrugs his shoulders with what appears to be genuine indifference when asked whether he is worth a sum which would blow the existing Scottish transfer record of £13 million – paid by Southampton to Celtic for Virgil van Dijk two years ago – out of the water.
“Am I worth £40 million?” said the Frenchman plundered from Fulham for just £500,000 by the Scottish champions last June. “You tell me, I don’t know. A price is a price – I can’t tell you if I’m worth £40 million or £50 million, £30 million or £20 million. I just concentrate on my game. It feels great to be called a £40 million striker, because it means I am not doing badly, I think?
“I just focus on my season and at the end I will go on holiday and enjoy that. I don’t really look at the rumours, I just focus on my football. If people talk about a change in price tags or whatever, it means we have done a great job – myself and the club. We just need to keep going forward.”
Momentum is something Dembele has maintained in Old Firm matches since his stunning hat-trick on his debut in the fixture at Celtic Park last September when Rangers were crushed 5-1. He has scored in both subsequent games between the teams, the winner in the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden and then the equaliser when Celtic won 2-1 at Ibrox on Hogmanay. The 20-year-old is determined to add to that tally when Rangers return to Parkhead and has not ruled out even eclipsing his previous feat.
“I hope it is going to be more than three goals this time,” he said. “I could have scored more that day. If I scored three, then I could have scored five. But I still wouldn’t be happy because I had scored five. I just have to take it game by game and get ready for Sunday. Hopefully we can win the game.
“We are a lot better than we were in September. You can see a lot of improvement in our game, especially defensively. We defend better as a team. There is still a lot more to come from us and we keep scoring goals. I don’t know why I have such a good record against Rangers. It’s not about them, it’s just about me. When I’m on the pitch I just try and give 100 per cent. I love big games. I am just ready for them.
“They will probably try to stop me, but that isn’t a change from any other team in the league. Everyone tries to stop the team and stop me from scoring. But when I am on the pitch I just focus on myself and on my team. I don’t really care about that. I try to give 100 per cent every time. But my best play comes in big games. I don’t know how to explain it.
“I have had some good performances this season so I can’t really look and say which one was the best. But when I scored that hat-trick against Rangers, it was the day when my Celtic career really took off. It all started from that day, so I will always remember it.”
Dembele raised eyebrows on his first day at Celtic when he declared his intention to become the best striker in the world. With 32 goals already to his credit, how much closer does he feel towards that lofty ambition? “I’m far from it,” he said. “I have done a lot, but I am still young. I am 20 years old and still learning. Hopefully, I will make it one day. No matter what people say I will always trust myself because I know what I am capable of.”