Yesterday, the club’s assistant manager Chris Davies was candid enough to suggest that maybe the Frenchman had lost his desire to be in Glasgow.
In so doing, he was merely developing a theme taken up by his manager, Brendan Rodgers, at the weekend.
Then, the Irishman talked of essentially having lost the player that the Frenchman was last season because of the constant transfer speculation surrounding the 21-year-old, and how the resultant loss of focus had left him feeling unable to play Dembele in the Scottish Cup success over Brechin City.
With Leigh Griffiths available for tonight’s visit to Partick Thistle after missing out at the weekend with an ankle knock, Davies gave every indication that game time could prove as elusive for Dembele at Firhill as it was the other day. It may be that Dembele is never seen in Celtic colours again. That, of course, would require the final nine days of this transfer window to result in an acceptable concrete offer for the player – with any such bid, once put at £40 million but now probably in the region of £18m, conspicuous by its absence... despite all the froth about would-be interested parties. These once seemed to range from all manner of the elite, including Chelsea and Real Madrid. Now the names mentioned are Crystal Palace and Everton.
As he rattled in the goals and seemed to have the world at his feet six months into his life at Celtic 12 months ago, Rodgers presented Dembele as a performer he would not part with. As the France under-21 international has struggled for fitness and form a year down, the Celtic manager has intimated that a parting could be imminent. There is every indication that Celtic, never mind Dembele, would not be averse to ending their relationship.
“I think time has gone on. And I think, obviously, there has been interest in him,” Davies, pictured left, said of the change in emphasis over a possible move for the player.
“It’s a feeling now that, of course he’s our player and we’re happy for him to be here – and we know what he can do. But there is also an acceptance that maybe Moussa feels it is the right time for him to move on. And when a player feels that way, then, there is not an awful lot of point in stopping them – unless you really have to. So that’s kind of how it’s evolved. I don’t think Moussa is desperate to leave. The situation is where it is. But nothing has actually happened yet, it’s been speculation.
“Here we are with nine or ten days to go and there’s been no formal bid. So we can only take it like that – and possibly stop focusing on that situation so much.”
It can feel as if there has been a daily diet of Dembele rumour mongering. As if it has become one of the perennial pastimes of Scottish football. No wonder it has messed with the youngster – and at 21, he is that – and messed with his head. However, Davies is at pains to stress that this hasn’t affected his attitude on a day-to-day basis within the confines of his Lennoxtown workplace.
“The nature of the window is that, in my experience, even with established players, the uncertainty and instability of the window can affect them... let alone guys who have speculation around them to stay or go. So Moussa has not been unprofessional in his behaviour.
“As the manager alluded to, he’s been slighted affected by what is going on around him and the speculation. But there’s no problem. He’s here, he’s available, he’s working hard, the manager has an open line of communication with him, they talk quite regularly.
“So that’s no problem at all. We just support them and talk to them, let them know our feelings and thoughts on it and see what happens. It’s a period of instability for managers and teams, as well as players, so you have to expect that.”