Moussa Dembele has insisted his head will not be turned by the attention he is receiving from a host of European football’s wealthiest clubs.
The Celtic striker has made a big impression in his first few months with the Scottish champions, scoring 12 goals in 17 games so far and capturing headlines throughout the continent with a stellar display in the 3-3 Champions League draw against Manchester City.
Dembele further enhanced his reputation during the international break, scoring in both of his first two appearances for France at under-21 level.
With Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Arsenal previously credited with an interest in him, the 20-year-old has now been linked with a return to Paris St Germain, who off-loaded him to Fulham four years ago.
Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond stressed earlier this month that his club are in no rush to cash in on Dembele, who signed a four-year contract with Brendan Rodgers’ squad in June.
Now Dembele himself has confirmed his commitment to remaining with Celtic for the “long term” as he looks to build on the form which this week saw him named as SPFL Premiership Player of the Month.
“It’s good to know that big clubs are looking at me,” said Dembele. “But so long as they know I’m a Celtic player. I’m focused on Celtic – I don’t listen too much to what anyone is saying about me.
“My job is to get Celtic the best results possible and score as many goals as possible. Celtic is the best club for me. Not just for a few years. For a few years and more. That’s why I came here. I didn’t come here to stay just for a few years. I came here for the long term.”
Compared to former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba by Celtic manager Rodgers, Dembele is happy to accept the compliment. Having stated his ambition to become “the best striker in the world” on the day he signed for Celtic, he is not a player who will ever attempt to hide his light under a bushel.
“It is great to be compared to that kind of player,” added Dembele. “But I want to make my own name. Hopefully with the goals I have scored and the goals I will score, I will do that. Of course, I looked up to Drogba when I was younger. He was one of the greatest strikers in the world. He could score from anywhere, inside or outside the box.
“My main target in football is to be one of the best, or the best, strikers in the world. Before that happens, I have a lot of things to do and I need to work very hard.
“I know when I’m 100 per cent ready that I can produce some good stuff. That’s what I’ve done so far.
“To be fair, when I first came in to Celtic the lads were playing well so that made it easier for me to settle in and get to where I am today.
“You can always do better, so I won’t say you have seen me at my best yet. I am still young and still have things to learn. So you can only say that there is more to come.
“The manager has been great since I came here. Even before I signed, I had a chat with him and he was behind me right away. He gave me good advice, he is always helping me. He is trying to make me the best I can be.”
Dembele also has no concerns about being able to fulfil his potential while operating in a domestic Scottish football environment which is no longer highly regarded in the rest of Europe.
“I have been shocked with what I have seen here already,” he said. “When you are in England, you don’t really watch the league up here. I only really watched games involving Celtic. I didn’t really watch the other teams.
“You just hear people saying that there is no quality in this league. But I have been shocked since I came here, because I have seen teams who are trying to play good football. So I think other people need to watch this league more closely to understand the quality there is here.”
Dembele has thrived since being thrust into a lone striker role at Celtic when last season’s top scorer Leigh Griffiths picked up an injury at the end of September. But he is equally comfortable with the prospect of forming a partnership up front with Griffiths.
“I can do both,” he added. “I don’t really have any preference. When Leigh was injured, I had to come in and play on my own up front. I think I helped the team in the best way I can. As long as I do my best and the team wins, I don’t mind if I play on my own or with a strike partner.
“I feel okay about the responsibility of being the lone striker. I don’t let it put any more pressure on me because there is no point in putting pressure on yourself. For me, when I’m focused and I give 100 per cent, I know that I can score against any team. I’m lucky that, sometimes, my best seems to come out in big games against the big teams.”
France manager Didier Deschamps is another who has taken note of Dembele’s recent form, suggesting he may hand him a rapid promotion to the senior international squad during the current World Cup qualifying campaign.
Dembele is confident he would handle the step up and has shot down any suggestion of switching allegiance to England who are believed to have investigated the possibility of calling him up under the five-year residency rule.
“I’m French, I was born in France, so I won’t play for England,” said Dembele. “I’m ready to play for France as soon as he [Deschamps] calls me. He’s the manager, it’s up to him to choose his players. But I’m ready.
“I couldn’t say I’m not ready because I’d be lying. I will take any chance that comes – and, if it doesn’t come, I’ll work harder.”